Radiohead: ‘Burn The Witch’ Review

By Kat Collison

As a precursor to their much-anticipated return to the music scene, Radiohead opted for the overstated understatement of removing all their social media content. Of course, given the move’s unsubtle nature, Radiohead fans everywhere soon worked themselves into some frantic pandemonium of anticipation. An optimal PR move from the band that gave us No Surprises.

In fairness, the questionable catharsis of Tuesday’s release Burn The Witch was not so much predictable as something of an anti-climax. The driving yet unnerving staccato col legno string section accompanied by a synth drone is a far cry from their gritty, girthy guitar of the 90s but is closer to their material of the past 10 years. Moreover, Thom Yorke’s vocals wholly complement this, sounding transitory, ethereal and really quite beautiful. Slightly richer, sweeping string melodies are also created at points with the bow this time being drawn over the strings… this too is very pleasing. However, despite the odd contrasting sections prior to Yorke’s break (or rather walk) into the “burn the witch” refrain, the song is relatively static. From a band that has produced tracks so stirring as High and Dry and Gagging Order that at times have reduced me to tears, musically Burn The Witch seems perhaps a little tame.

Aside from any sweet, nostalgic childhood memories of watching Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 17.48.39Trumpton or Camberwick Green on your Nan’s VHS player being utterly obliterated, where Radiohead really have made an impression is with Burn The Witch’s music video. Whether a comment on the suggested nationalism, social media, the Syrian Refugee Crisis or none of the above, the music video is a delicious piece of dark levity, thoroughly well-placed against the track itself. To be honest, I’m not entirely convinced the track isn’t accompanying the video rather than vice versa. Burn The Witch with its largely consistent texture can feel at times like film music set to some crude, childish horror film. The lyrics too (when audible) round off this macabre and twisted Toy Town, enhancing its visual impact.

 Ultimately, it seems Burn The Witch warbles on with the same rapidity as the stop-animation process itself. Compared to 2011’s offerings however, Burn The Witch bodes well overall for an up and coming LP. Though this single might feel a tad anti-climatic, Radiohead’s artistic (albeit at times wanky) prowess leaves me eager
to hear more regardless.

Check out the new single here…

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