The Five Best Tracks of 2016:
Radiohead – Burn the Witch
IT is not favouritism/nepotism my favourite band should find themselves…
in the gold medal position of my rundown – that which looks at 2016’s best songs. I feel they are deserved winners. With other, and many, sites plumping for something like Beyoncé’s Formation or a track from The 1975 – I have chosen a song that created one of this year’s biggest reactions. Following Radiohead’s previous album – the superb but flawed-in-places The King of Limbs – there was speculation the Oxford boys may have downed tools for good. That was an alarming proposition. The fact they are, in my biased opinion, this generation’s most innovative group would have been a huge loss – were such rumours to have been believed. A Moon Shaped Pool’s lead-off single wasn’t so much a release as it was an event. Like an opera about to begin: the curtains were closed and the lights off; there was an awed hush and expectation – before the stage lit to a bright and impassioned performance. Radiohead shut off their social media sites and created a blackout: what the heck were they up to?! As it happens they had just pulled off another unexpected and marvellous hype move – or P.R. stunt depending on your philosophical bent (Yorke has since been interviewed and said he wants to return to conventional releases/promotion). An historical look at Radiohead’s locker would tell you they are not a band that does things by halves. Burn the Witch’s discourse of immigration, finger-pointing and scapegoating – a wave of faux-panic and cold-hearted communality – was only matched by the song’s video. In it was depicted a village of Camberwick Green-referencing figures: an envoy/council representative inspecting a village only to find red crosses on doors and an ominous Wicker Man-style figure – in which he was entrapped and subsequently torched in (only to make it out at the very end). Thom Yorke’s vocal is typically gorgeous, dynamic and dramatic: a symphony of beauty, control and underlying fear. Throw into the mix a sensationally creepy-cum-tranquil string articulation – the album was orchestra-heavy and moved the band into more ethereal/Classic territory – and some incredible band interplay and you have a song of immense proportions; life-giving bailment. There is no denying just how spellbinding and nuanced A Moon Shaped Pool was/is. From Daydreaming’s somnambulistic tones and provocative lyrical suggestions to Ful Stop’s jittered punctuation – one of the freshest and most exciting tracks the band have levied in years. That is not to mention the much-needed inclusion of fan favourite True Love Waits and the encore-ready desires of Identikit. Burn the Witch is the opener. The Daddy. The Boss. It is the Big Bang of their 2016 creation and a song, once sampled, provides a witch’s brew of exciting highs and brooding, foreboding lows. If the song’s “low-flying panic attacks” do not inspire vivid scenes then the apocalyptic, nihilistic outcries – Yorke sticking it to corrupt governments and those looking for sacrificial lambs – surely will. Burn the Witch is almost a foreshadowing of the Trump presidency; the Brexit horrorshow and subsequent fall-out. Burn the Witch may be seven months old but its messages and relevance is as current as any song out there. Strip away interpretations, expectations and personal preferences and you have a song indisputably stunning, intense and utterly beguiling. In short: just another day at the office for The World’s Greatest Band.
The album, A Moon Shaped Pool, is available at: