Radiohead are breaking the internet. They winded it a bit when by erasing almost all of their online footprint last week, then flicked it on the nose with a teaser clip of their new Trumpton meets Wicker Man-inspired video for the paranoid, terse track ‘Burn the Witch’, the full video for which – released just three days ago – left the web with a bloodied nose and two black eyes.
Well, today Tom and co. double-drop-kicked the internet, announcing the release date of their ninth album, which will be available online at 7pm sharp on Sunday, and then unveiling the Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood) video for another new song, ‘Daydreaming’.
‘Burn the Witch’, with its relentless, marching strings and lyrics about a ‘low-flying panic attack’, is the sound of a pair of icy hands being wrapped around your neck. ‘Daydreaming’, an eerie, gently insistent piano ballad, is the sound of being smothered by a pillow in your sleep. Gently, gently, off you go. Hush now.
“Dreamers,” Thom Yorke croons in the creepy, half-whispered falsetto of his, “they never learn”. He laments that he is “beyond the point of no return”, that it’s “too late – the damage is done.” Meanwhile that soft piano refrain loops over and over, getting tighter and tighter as if catching on its own breath, while snatches of distorted vocal break the strange sense of calm like leaves crunching underfoot in the midst of a journey to you don’t know where.
Because the accompanying video depicts Yorke on a Charlie Kauffman-esque search for a mysterious prey, a hunt that takes him to beautiful house (perhaps belonging to Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, the US author who claimed on a radio show that the band filmed a video in her house), across snow-capped mountains and into a brightly lit car park. What is he looking for? Resolution to the heartbreak depicted in the song?
At the end of the video he disappears completely, into a cave awaiting in the side of the mountain. And that’s what this delicate, quietly beautiful new track sounds like: being submerged, beneath a duvet or deep underwater or far into a rock face, a shelter from heartache and pain. The greatest art offers us respite from the harsh realities of life – and Radiohead just did it again.