Tomorrow Radiohead release the 20th anniversary edition of the peerless OK Computer and alongside the record’s 12 tracks are a spate of B-Sides and unreleased tunes. We’ve already heard the devastatingly bare “I Promise” from OKNOTOK 1997-2017 and now Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Colin Greenwood, Ed O’Brien and Phil Selway have shared the shifting “Man of War” as well as its accompanying video.
The tune is from the band’s Bends-era (circa 1995) and has some of that album’s guitar histrionics though Yorke’s lyrical concerns are far more cryptic than say “High and Dry” or “Fake Plastic Trees.” He eerily exhales about “baking cakes” of “all their eyes” and being “dressed for the kill,” as though he’s the 20th Century Sweeney Todd. And when the music swells to some of its noisiest points, he yelps out to an unseen “man of war” as though to maximize the elliptical violence. But it being Thom Yorke, he still slips in a few lines about listlessly floating and “drunken confessions.” If there’s a throughline of the band’s career, that spans across albums, it’s this uncanny ability to balance the sincere with the nearly inscrutable.