Hail's first track, "2+2=5," is an antiwar song on which an acoustic intro is engulfed by thrashing punk guitar rips, and passionate, stimulated singing rather than Thom Yorke's typically dragged-out-of-bed vocals. The song's lyrics point out how "It's too late now because you haven't been paying attention." Aside from the song's metaphorical preachiness, this type of attitude illustrates why Radiohead is often perceived as pretentious. But the notion that a rock band shouldn't take itself this seriously should be ignored when it comes to Radiohead (as opposed to U2's Bono). This well-read, academically inclined band creates thoughtful symbolism that sews reality and abstraction like no other group and its music's searing harmonies don't cater to crowd-pleasing bullshit. Every Radiohead song is an attempt at a masterpiece that is frequently accomplished, excusing the admittedly frequent (and tired) predilection for despair.
The song that sticks out the most from Hail's collection of somber compositions is "A Punch-up at a Wedding," a facetious smirk at their own insistent intellectualism. The song shades a bluesy rhythm, precise backbeat, and Yorke's jilted poetry into an opaque soliloquy about a wedding gone awry. You can't tell by the music that they are trying to make fun unless you listen to the lyrics about a "drunken punch-up" who comes to a wedding "just to start a fight," then begs "it wasn't like that." It's a window into a bleak kind of comedy that might muster up laughter from the band members ... but of course they'd only be laughing on the inside. At a time when pop music is obnoxiously feel-good and upbeat, Hail's dismal polish is as refreshing as it is unique.