Radiohead has un-disappeared completely. After a temporary e-hiatus, the alt-rock stalwarts have returned to the internet with a new song and video. Tuesday, Radiohead dropped the rich and frenetic record “Burn The Witch,” the stunner of a first single from their to-be-released ninth studio album. While the track is a sweet and melodic tune that builds fluidly to a string-driven crescendo, whereas its lyrics are the opposite of sweet. Much like Radiohead classics “Climbing Up The Walls” and “Kid A,” the lyrics to “Burn The Witch” pack a creepy punch. So, what is Radiohead’s “Burn The Witch” about? The short answer: conformity.
In the Chris Hopewell-directed clip, a clay puppet man with a clay puppet clipboard visits a clay puppet village. After touring the clay puppet village, the clay puppet village elder decides the clay puppet man and his clay puppet clipboard are out to threaten the clay puppet village way of life (i.e., put a stop to the clay puppet hangings and whatever those masked clay puppets were up to). So, the clay puppet village elder and the rest of the clay puppet villagers give the clay puppet visitor a most warm welcome: they Wicker Man him.
Now, if you think the song can’t be as unsettling as the video, then you have another think coming. Please consider the first verse:
Stay in the shadows/Cheer at the gallows/This is a round up
And then tack on the pre-chorus:
This is a low flying panic attack/Sing a song on the jukebox that goes
What's the song on the jukebox, you ask? I'll give you a hint: It's not "Don't Stop Believin'." Why don't we let the chorus take it from here:
Burn the witch/Burn the witch/We know where you live
Perturbed yet? If not, please consider the second verse and get back to me:
Red crosses on wooden doors/And if you float you burn/Loose talk around tables/Abandon all reason/Avoid all eye contact/Do not react/Shoot the messengers
The themes of groupthink, witch hunts, and mob mentality course through the veins of "Burn The Witch"; If you dare to threaten the status quo, and you may find yourself locked up in the stomach of a flammable effigy.
Just when I thought I couldn't be more stoked to hear the followup album to 2011's The King of Limbs, they go and hit us with "Burn The Witch." What a gift to all of our ears. Man, I've missed Radiohead.