Radiohead: “Burn the Witch”

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After a lot of waiting, Radiohead have finally released new music. “Burn the Witch” is the first single from their upcoming album (which has been rumoured to be coming in June). The track has been teased by the band for more than a decade. Last week, fans in the UK received mysterious leaflets in the mail that said “Sing the song of sixpence that goes / Burn the witch / We know where you live,” the final lines from the song. Over the weekend, Radiohead’s Facebook and Twitter accounts began to disappear, profile pictures and cover photos being replaced by blank images. Their website slowly faded until it too was completely blank. Last night, a teaser appeared on their Instagram of a claymation bird, and then this morning we got a full video to accompany the release of the song.

“Burn the Witch” is a churning, building, absolutely massive Radiohead song. Backed by an orchestral string arrangement, the heavy bass line when it comes in allows Thom Yorke’s voice to take flight. “This is a low-flying panic attack,” he sings before the song’s ominous chorus: “Burn the witch / Burn the witch / We know where you live.” The song’s political undertones are evident in lines such as “Do not react / Shoot the messengers,” and interestingly, the ‘witch’ burned in the video is a man with a notebook who has come to inspect the claymation town. Johnny Greenwood’s impressive arrangement (he’s been performing with symphony orchestras for the last few years) alongside Yorke’s impeccable songwriting reaches its startling conclusion as the song escalates into noise—something Radiohead have always been good at—as the ‘witch’ in the video is set ablaze.

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