The Season of the Witch: Radiohead Drop Their New Single

Introducing a little-known but promising British rock ensemble.
By    May 4, 2016

radiohead

Will Schube‘s just bitter Radiohead never sent him a letter.

Ever since word passed down from on high that Radiohead were maybe sort of working on a new album, the world has been holding its collective breath. Radiohead’s music aims to break down and tear apart such myth-making; but they’re just too good to fail. You can’t blame them for this irony, but it’s funny nonetheless.

So when Radiohead deleted their internet presence and sent newsletter subscribers an actual letter (ominous, to boot), it felt like…they were trolling the thing the internet had turned them into. It felt very un-Radiohead, but here we are.

We all knew that the first piece of actual, real music—and not a note from a former manager that says, “trust me, this shit bangs”—would elicit takes so hot no one would ever need Sriracha again.

So here we go: “Burn the Witch,” the aforementioned NEW ONE is middling to aight at best. It sounds like they pasted Jonny Greenwood’s There Will Be Blood strings over bass-synth blurts, except Greenwood’s pulsing, plucked strings were intense and unpleasant in that movie. These sound joyous.

Thom Yorke’s voice sounds afloat in this foreign universe. The lyrics aren’t “where the hell am I,” but they might as well be. For all of the uneasiness it causes, it’s still a Radiohead song. Great moments abound. Thom Yorke singing, “This is a low flying panic attack” produces butterflies. This band still trying to be otherworldly is enough for me. But Radiohead post-King of Limbs may not be a great band. That record has brilliant moments and some awesome innovations but Radiohead has never been a band with which “some” is associated.

But then the strings swell and Thom Yorke’s voice dissipates. The song’s peak is sinister and—maybe Radiohead was right in sending their fans a warning letter after all. There Will Be Blood strings turn into an acid trip and I sound like a total idiot for calling this thing middling only three paragraphs ago. This is why hot takes are bad. Listen to the whole song once—maybe even twice—before you write or think, or if that fails, Tweet.

The video ends with the cartoon town (based on the English show, The Trumptons — GET IT) burning the wooden witch and you realize that for three minutes you didn’t think that this song was a clever metaphor for good and evil—that nice, decent people can still come together to break up the bad shit. You forgot because freaking Radiohead put out a new song. For three minutes you forgot that Donald Trump may be our next president. That David Bowie AND Prince just died and we have only so many geniuses left. That Britain’s leftist party hates Jews. That a city in Canada is literally on fire. Radiohead didn’t. And that’s why they still—and always will—matter. They can’t forget.