Forget ‘How To Disappear Completely’, forget ‘Videotape’, forget ‘Pyramid Song’. Radiohead have done beauty before, and different kinds of beauty too. There’s a painful glory to ‘Videotape’, but ‘Daydreaming’ revels in a surface level of beauty – white rooms filled with sunlight, daydreaming, blissful failure – whilst simultaneously making a barbed political statement. It’s a bit like ‘Burn The Witch’, where the lyrics are very open ended and possibly even more implicit than ‘Burn The Witch’ was. It seems to come from the point of a person in power, a politician, corporate giant or another authoritative figure for Thom Yorke to point fingers at. He’s mocking when he sings ‘We are just happy to serve you’ in his fragile and wavering falsetto that’s come to become even more of an iconic vocal than his early scorchers like ‘Electioneering’ or ‘Just’. He may have calmed down vocally, but he’s distantly angry in his lyrics.
The key quote I saw when I watched The Big Short was this:
‘Truth is like poetry, and most people fucking hate poetry’
…which was overheard in a bar in Washington D.C. The film was about the global economy collapsing due to a system of stupidity letting the housing market fall apart. I’m no expert, but I was angry that only one banker went to prison and the system was bailed out to repeat the same events. Radiohead tap into that anger with figures of power in ‘Daydreaming’, assuming the position of that figure, who looks down on ordinary people as ‘dreamers’ who ‘never learn’ and uses remarks like ‘beyond the point of return’, when they got us there in the first place. It might not be about bankers specifically, but that quote ties into the complacency of ordinary people to let lies wash over them for the sake of letting someone else do that job for them. Poetry can be eye-opening, but when it’s such an effort, why not forget it is there and move on?
The instrumentation is beautiful. There’s no two ways about it, it has the blissful electronics of ‘Kid A’ and ‘Everything In Its Right Place’ with the pianos of In Rainbows and the strings of something otherworldy. It’s like floating on a glitchy cloud, elements of the past and future fusing together by traditional and cinematic strings overlapping Yorke’s glitchy vocals and bubbling electronics. This is everything Radiohead have ever aimed for; bridging the gap between the old guard of music with the possibilities for the future. This could be Radiohead’s next classic album.