REVIEW: Radiohead | Burn the Witch

Let me just declare upfront that I love Radiohead. Even when things started getting weirder following the phenomenal success of The Bends and OK Computer I remained an enormous fan.

By the time they were moving deeper into the challenging and strangely syncopated electronica of albums like In Rainbows and King Of Limbs that had alienated a number of earlier fans I was still on board for the ride. The intriguing aspect for me was how far could they go? After a 5 year hiatus (has it really been that long?) the early indications suggest that the band are charting a new course, so if you’ve been frustrated by their later sonic adventures you may be surprised by the new direction.

The first clue arrived late last year when the band posted the song Spectre on their site just before Christmas. Yes, it was to be the theme song for the Bond flick but the film’s producers decided on a Sam Smith number instead. What a pity – a Bond theme from Radiohead was a bold and inspired idea, though it would appear not possessed of enough dramatic grandeur for the producer’s taste.

Listen to Spectre here and note the sweeping orchestral arrangement – this was new territory for Radiohead. The question is, did it lead them down a new path of musical exploration? Burn the Witch suggests that the answer might be yes. Electronica is now replaced by a rhythmic string ensemble pulsating and building to a climax as the sinister tone of the lyrics unfold. While the sound is new, the theme is not with Thom Yorke’s disturbing dystopia this time taking the shape of a “low flying panic attack”. Once again it’s his alienation that both rattles and resonates within.

The new album is expected soon with the band undertaking a world tour later this month. No Australian dates have been named as yet.

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