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Radiohead Return With "Burn The Witch"

On May 3, 2016

It’s happening again. Radiohead are going to put out another record. I’m not surprised, it’s hard to find a late 90’s/early 2000’s famous band unwilling to put out a new project and tour it these days, but there will always be something particularly significant about Radiohead. They’ve always been that band. The band whom, for some reason, it’s always felt important to have an opinion about no matter what the opinion was. I have friends who hate them, and they hate them loudly. I have friends who love them, and they love them loudly. In either group, there seems to be a Dantean level of complexity to either the tortures or blessings the band hands down and we rarely get tired of outlining whichever it is for us. They matter, I guess, in a way that not many bands can matter at any given time. There just isn’t enough emotion to go around.

I’m not the first to say that their new song "Burn The Witch" is very good or that the accompanying video is brilliant, and I won’t be the last. I mean as far as I can tell after a couple times through it, the viewer plays the part of God having someone sacrificed to us by a group of our followers who have abandoned their reason in order to be faithful to us. We win, I guess, but the messenger escapes likely because of a faulty lock and our fealty-fueled barbecue comes up a bit short. It happens, and this is one of the reasons that those of us who love Radiohead love them so much. They are incredible lampooners who won’t let the gravity of the situation escape the listener. They get it, and they want to make sure we get it the same way they do.

Say whatever you want but, no pun intended, we’re all coming out of the woodwork for this thing. It’s fucking Radiohead, dude. But as the cycle of their anti-establishment album promotion cycle begins, this time with a disappearing act and power-to-the-people release stunt that is already rivaling Snowden, I think it’s important to consider the irony of a band who cut its teeth on the bones of the Bush administration, the Catholic church, and global warming deniers having such a rabid and dare I say cult following. The (wonderful to me) paradox that a group of seemingly malnourished private school dissenters with a penchant for pyrotechnics at the expense of the various established regimes have, in their own way, created one of their own.

One of the reasons for that, as far as I can tell, is that they’ve always carried a kind of strange fire around with them. Thom Yorke has always, ironically, been vaguely Moses-ish in that way. He’s seemed to be beaming his stuff in from somewhere else, somewhere we aren’t wild or crazed enough to tap into. And Jonny Greenwood has been the perfect sidekick, making Thom Yorke even more Thom Yorke than he could ever be on his own and doing the same for Paul Thomas Anderson and a slew of others. The two of them, at their core, are channelers. Druids, even. And we try to worship them, or burn them, whenever we can for the same reason we’ve been worshipping or burning things for the duration of our species: we don’t really understand them.

Profile Picture of Tyler Barstow
Tyler Barstow

Tyler is the co-founder of Vinyl Me, Please. He lives in Denver and listens to The National a lot more than you do.

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