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Radiohead’s New Single ‘Burn the Witch’: SPIN’s Impulsive Reviews

Radiohead have returned with “Burn the Witch,” the presumed lead single from their upcoming, long-awaited ninth album. Details on the King of Limbs follow-up are still scarce, but at least we have a new song to dissect. Below, the SPIN staff offers their first impressions. 

Andrew Unterberger: “Burn the Witch” provides its own best capsule review: “This is a low-flying panic attack.” Personally, I preferred the ominous soar of their Not-Bond Theme, as well as the subterranean rumble of prior album lead single “Lotus Flower,” but I’m amenable to Radiohead continuing to shift the core of their attack — from guitars to electronics to bass and drums and now to strings, as smothering and stabbing here as Jonny’s six-string was on “My Iron Lung” back in the day. Video could use more stop-motion Nicolas Cage, though.
Early Score: 7/10

Dan Weiss: Let’s ignore the title, which makes Hail to the Thief look deep. Radiohead discovered Animal Farm in 2000 and the Salem witch trials in 2016? In 2028, they’ll release “A Scanner Darkly,” right on schedule, about President Meghan McCain. Atoms for Peace had a skitter, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes remains in storage, and this Caribou-flavored chugger with neat strings is not better than “Lotus Flower,” which you should listen to again. Pretty good — that’s good with two O’s, from a band we expect to have many, many more.
Early Score: 6/10

Rachel Brodsky: No shade to the glitchy, relatively minimalist King of Limbs, but it sure is nice to hear Radiohead moving in a more grandiose direction on “Burn the Witch.” The band’s new single sees them revisiting breathtaking orchestration — conjoining their trademark icy electronics with a blast of warm (then blazing) string-work, all topped by Thom Yorke’s ominous falsetto. Unsettling subject matter aside, it’s comforting to know that, 30 years in, this band can still surprise us.
Early Score: 8/10

Brennan Carley: For me, Radiohead are the music world’s equivalent to hard-hitting political news coverage: I know they’re important, and I should probably be paying a lot more attention to them, but I find it hard to fully engage beyond a surface level. “Burn the Witch” is the first time the band’s ever really stopped me in my tracks; perhaps that’s owed in part to the song’s surprise-release, which always lends cache to a cultural event, but Thom Yorke’s carved-out vocals and the bizzaro stop-motion music video all heighten the tune’s drama. Consider me onboard.
Early Score: 8/10

Anna Gaca: As someone who rarely takes much interest in Radiohead (sue me), it’s nice to have a new song that piques my interest, or at least my anxiety. The strings have a ton of personality, and the low, rolling thunder that comes around the 1:04 mark seals it. I respect their artistic vision for being expansive enough to include a clever, creepy video that isn’t particularly “Radiohead” aesthetically, and frankly I’m relieved it doesn’t involve the kind of graphic violence against women one might have expected from the teaser clip.
Early Score: 7/10

Brian Josephs: Odd that the two trump cards here are actually the record’s flaws. Thom Yorke’s alienated but tragically human falsetto feels more of a tacked-on flourish here than the emotional core. The rococo string section would feel more at home on an Adele bonus track; it doesn’t swell as effectively as “Spectre” did. Yeah, “Burn the Witch” proves Radiohead are still ambitious. But they’ve always been. What’s concerning is how that vision might be giving way to bloat.
Early Score: 7/10