Radiohead “Burn The Witch” – Single Review

10th May 2016 Off By Daniel Jenkins

Radiohead are back. Five years after their last record, The King of Limbs, new music has finally surfaced in the form of Burn the Witch.

The band deleted their presence off the Internet last weekend with their website going completely blank and everything on their social media pages being deleted. They are notorious for being different so, as you can imagine, fans started thinking something was about to drop when all this was going on.

They were right. Burn the Witch debuted on YouTube last Tuesday and has already amassed 10,000,000+ views.

On first listening, I was unsure what to make of it. I wasn’t particularly keen on The King of Limbs, and after my first listen of Burn the Witch, I feared I wasn’t going to like their latest material either.

Thankfully though, after a few more listens the song grew on me and I’ve now listened to it 30+ times in the past week.

The mix of pizzicato strings and harmonic violins is refreshingly different from recent Radiohead music. The second verse in particular is stunning, but the underlying electronic hum reminds you this is in fact a Radiohead song you’re listening to. At the same time the song takes you back a decade or so to Hail to the Thief with soft build-ups culminating into raucous choruses. The track has been knocking around in some shape or form since around that time, with it even appearing on the original cover for Hail to the Thief, so it’s no surprise it sounds similar to some of the music they produced around that time.

It really is a beautiful song though but also has a sinister back tone. My take on the meaning of the song is it’s about the fear of speaking up and just following the crowd in fear of your opinion being ridiculed. The lyrics “Stay in the shadows / Cheer at the gallows” certainly suggests that.

The video that accompanies it definitely captures that sinister side as well. Directed by Chris Hopewell, it bears a striking resemblance to the popular 1960s UK children’s series ‘Trumpton”, as well as containing references to Robin Hardy’s cult 1973 horror The Wicker Man.

Radiohead are very much like marmite. You either love them or loathe them, but their popularity cannot be denied.

As I mentioned earlier, Burn the Witch already has over 10 million views on YouTube and their upcoming gigs at the Roundhouse in London sold out in a matter of minutes.

It remains to be seen whether their latest record will live up to expectations that have built up over five long years without new Radiohead music, but if Burn the Witch is anything to go by, I’m very excited to find out.