Fans have been eagerly awaiting new material from Radiohead for about four years now. After their last full studio release in 2011, The King of Limbs, we’ve only been teased by a few small releases – namely, Thom Yorke solo albums as well as a track appearing as part of Jonny Greenwood’s score to the film Inherent Vice. However, on Christmas Day, Radiohead dropped their much-rumoured Bond theme; one which apparently ‘didn’t work out’ and was instead replaced by the average-to-poor Sam Smith tune.
It’s appropriate that this is a Bond theme, as it’s a little more commercial than we’re used to from Radiohead’s recent output. Still, this is never a bad thing, as it remains distinctly them. The track opens with vacant piano chords, reminiscent of the work on ‘Pyramid Song’ from 2001’s Amnesiac, while the percussion sulks along, slightly out of sync. The chords blend perfectly with a haunting orchestral accompaniment, echoing the epic quality we’re used to with most Bond themes. Thom Yorke’s falsetto voice hasn’t aged at all, and at 46 he’s still able to make our innards weep with angst. The brooding orchestra match Thom’s lyrical themes, which act as an extension to ‘How to Disappear Completely’: “I’m lost / I’m a ghost…”, pondering loneliness as well as the struggle to find oneself. Moreover, Thom’s voice then builds up into his usual grimacing croon, as the orchestra appropriately flourishes into an unnerving conclusion.
Certainly Radiohead’s song isn’t groundbreaking by their standards. This is to be expected by anything that was proposed as a theme to a multi-million pound movie. However, this song still proves that Radiohead have got it, even when artistically restricted, and it makes me even more excited for their upcoming full-length project, to which no release date has been attached. Anyway, it blows Sam Smith out of the water.