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 Thom Yorke's worried about Coldplay and the Strokes ...



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 "We did everything we weren't supposed to do" ...



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 Yorke's not here to go to the supermarket or sign autographs for you ...



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They proved themselves in 1995 with The Bends, an anguished amalgam of atmospheric pop and multi-textured rock that featured the singles "Fake Plastic Trees," "Just" and the wonderfully skewed "My Iron Lung," which seesawed between melancholy drifting and disjointed clawing.

Lots of bands say they want to reinvent themselves with every release. Radiohead have actually done so. When they were praised for being a savvy band that specialized in dissonant guitar embellishments, they got softer, atmospheric and more epic with 1997's OK Computer. Then they pulled a 180 with 2000's Kid A and 2001's Amnesiac, both of which downplayed organic instrumentation and accessible melodic structure in favor of computerized music, challenging arrangements and a clinical vibe.

Now, after three discs that were labored over in the studio, the band has banged out Hail to the Thief, a record that was intentionally recorded in a mere two weeks and is composed of melancholy, sample-flecked melodies that were road-tested months before they were taken into the studio.

  Radiohead
"There There"
Hail To The Thief
(Capitol)
"The last two studio records [Kid A and Amnesiac] were a real headache," Yorke said, thumbing the stubble on his angular chin. "We had spent so much time looking at computers and grids, we were like, 'That's enough. We can't do that anymore.' This time, we used computers, but they had to actually be in the room with all the gear. So everything was about performance, like staging a play."

In all likelihood, Radiohead didn't really willfully attack the environment by driving flashy gas-guzzling cars when they were making Hail to the Thief, but the vibe and celebrity culture of the West Coast certainly had an effect on them. The music on Hail to the Thief is far less sterile and claustrophobic than the band's last two discs. Some songs are colored with electronic samples, but most abound with evocative guitar lines and real drums, and tracks like "There There" and "Go to Sleep" mark a return to the gloomy melodic pop dynamics of OK Computer.

  "It was like eating too much chocolate or something..."
"It was like a beach vacation," Yorke said of Radiohead's time working on the album in L.A. "We did everything we weren't supposed to do, and we felt kind of sick afterwards. It was like eating too much chocolate or something. It didn't feel like the world was going to end, so we wanted to make the sort of sounds that get you up in the morning and [that] sort of have a positive energy to them. It was the most fun we've ever had in the studio."

As much as the California breezes brightened the bandmembers' moods, it didn't color Yorke's lyrics, which were written in the politically tense months after 9-11. On "The Gloaming" he sings, "Genie, let out of the bottle /It is now the witching hour/ Murderers, you're murderers/ We are not the same as you," and in "I Will" he croons, "I will lay me down in a bunker underground."




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Photo: Capitol

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  "There There"
Hail To The Thief
(Capitol)



 "2 + 2 = 5" (live)
Hail To The Thief
(Capitol)



 "There There" (live)
Hail To The Thief
(Capitol)



 "Knives Out"
Amnesiac
(Capitol)



 "Pyramid Song"
Amnesiac
(Capitol)




 "I Might Be Wrong" (live)
Amnesiac
(Capitol)



 "Everything In Its Right Place " (live)
Kid A
(Capitol)



 "Idioteque"
Kid A
(Capitol)



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