Inscrutable, menacing, inter-textual and all printed on ink that won’t come off on your hands! Yes it’s Radiohead’s free newspaper The Universal Sigh, copies of which Thom Yorke himself handed out in London today (March 28).
Sadly, while it doesn’t contain a step-by-step guide to Thom’s dance steps in the ‘Lotus Flower’ video, it does contain a helluva lot of other stuff.
Radiohead give away ‘The Universal Sigh’: photo blog
Here, we’ve tried to decipher at least some of the multiple meanings contained within the pages.
‘The Universal Sigh’- taken from a line in a poem included in the newspaper entitled Across A Great Divide, which seems to be an amalgamation of some of the lyrics from ‘King Of Limbs’ tracks (most notably ‘Bloom’ and ‘Lotus Flower’).
There’s a contrast between the determinedly electronic music on ‘The King Of Limbs’ and the lyrics, which broadly seem to be concerned with nature. And so it is with The Universal Sigh. The references to ‘Mr Magpie’,’giant turtles’ and the illustrations of what appear to be plants suggest flora and fauna mixed with magic realism.
Solitude is also a re-occurring motif, a theme which seems to run through the paper from the opening parts to the authored pieces.
The Front Section
The opening salvo of three vignettes concern themselves with losing yourself in nature, whether that’s freezing to ambiguous levels of consciousness (‘Frozen’) or being isolated through a deserted landscape (“Out of it, in it, out of it”). Things take a darker turn with‘Haunt’, a ‘Fitter Happier’-style list of modern woes (“Irritable and dissastisfied”).
Illustration Of Plants
Eight drawings of various plants, some of which are linked to Norse mythology; ‘Ragnorok’’s suggests the end of the world, ‘Urpflanze’ is a symbol of the beginning of all plant life and ‘Axis Mundi’ is the connection between heaven and earth.
The artwork is done by Zachariah Wildwood and one Donald Twain. Are they, as fans have suggested, pseudonyms for Thom Yorke and Stanley Donwood?
Theory of 8
One of these renderings is called ‘The King Of Limbs’ prompting fans to suggest that the album is the first in a series of 8 albums and/or EPs.
The gloomy ‘Sell Your House And Buy Gold’ is by long time Radiohead associate Stanley Donwood who is responsible for most the band’s artwork from ‘The Bends’ onwards. The quasi-self help of ‘Forests Of The Mind’ is by Jay Griffiths, an acclaimed author who’s often written about the transformative power of nature. He’s also contributed to some of Radiohead’s podcasts. Finally there’s Robert Macfarlane’s travelogue-y ‘Tree Climbing’. MacFarlane is another acclaimed author who has written about his deeply personal relationship with nature.