It's nigh-on impossible to know what Radiohead are actually tinkering away on in the studio, given their love for secrecy and releasing albums out of nowhere, but they've been debuting a glut of new material on their recent jaunt to the USA. All of which has given us a few tantalising glimpses of what to expect from the band's ninth studio album - here's what we think you can expect from Thom and co on their next LP...
The most recent of the band’s new output to surface – it was debuted at a show in Cincinnati earlier this month – announces itself with a hearty, full-blooded thump: the gloomy, atmospheric noodling of ‘The King Of Limbs’ has been given a menacing makeover while Thom’s in full-on witchhunt mode (“The truth will mess you up”.)
Yorkie and the gang have been dusting this number off on their Stateside adventures this year. And it’s an absolute belter: a spooky, skittering ballad built around naked acoustic guitar and Thom’s warm-yet-sorrowful confessional of “When we realize that we’re broken then nothing mends.” Any Radiohead nuts who were alienated by the oft-dense ‘King Of Limbs’ will clasp it tightly to their bosom, we reckon.
Blimey, not many bands do eerie quite like Radiohead, do they? Another track debuted on their US tour, a shuddering, jittery drumbeat and Thom’s ethereal falsetto make for an unsettlingly sparse intro, before the whole thing blossoms at the 1-minute mark: deft guitar, shards of icy electro and a neurotic, teeth-chattering vocal of “Broken hearts make it real.”
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Back in March, NME.COM ed Luke Lewis plumped for this as the most promising of the band’s post-‘King Of Limbs’ material – and it’s hard to quibble. Like both ‘Skirting On The Surface’ and ‘Identikit’, it piles on the doom’n’gloom, but it’s a slower, stealthier beast reminiscent of ‘Pyramid Song’-era unsettling otherworldiness. And Thom’s gorgeous falsetto at the end? Lovely stuff.
Alas, it’s unlikely that ‘Staircase’ will be on the next Radiohead LP: originally recorded in the sessions for ‘The King Of Limbs’, it didn’t make the final cut but was tacked onto their ‘In The Basement’ session with producer Nigel Godrich instead. We can but hope, though, that the new material will be as bountiful with glitchy-grooves as this: an appearance from The Blessing’s drummer Clive Deamer bolsters the synth-augmented, driving beat.
“The lunatics have taken over the asylum”; “We’ll feed you to the hounds”; “No regard for human life.” Call us over-analysts if you must, but we have a sneaking suspicion that Thom probably doesn’t have a subscription to everyone’s favourite balanced, reasonable and neutral tabloid rag. Either way, this one featured on 'In The Basement', too, and it's a corker, built around crisp, crystalline piano and a bell-whistle clear vocal, before it gets bolshier and nastier towards the end with some hard-edged electric guitar. If there’s still such a thing as ‘classic’ Radiohead (and we’re aware that there probably isn’t), then this is the closest thing to it.
Given that these formed part of the band’s special Record Store Day release back in April, it makes sense to lump ‘em together. The former - with its ominous bassline, hiccupping percussion and moody crooning – is built from the same mould as Thom’s solo LP ‘The Eraser’, while ‘Supercollider’ is an ebbing, seven-minute treat of twitching electro-pulses and a walloping walls of synthesizers. If Radiohead’s brilliance still lies betwixt avant-garde experimentation and brain-bothering melodies, then this is an almighty sign of what the future could yield…