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10th January 2016

Spectre & Speculation: Where will Radiohead go next?

Jay Plent muses on what Britain’s most influential band will do next

With the Christmas release of their rejected Bond theme ‘Spectre’, now seems as good a time as any to speculate on what Radiohead’s eagerly awaited follow-up to 2011’s The King Of Limbs will sound like. 

Radiohead are famed for taking daring and inventive sidesteps in their music, so naturally, when a band as diversified in their interests re-assembles after a nearly 5 year hiatus, there’s bound to be some shake-up. 

The possibilities following TKOL—a short, down-tempo affair scattered with electronic stutterings—seem endless. So where will Radiohead go next? What fresh musical indulgence will they deliver us?

This is my speculation; Radiohead are unlikely to continue with the folk-electronic feel of TKOL, primarily because Thom Yorke has been pursuing that with Atoms For Peace and his recent Bit-torrent release Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, and frankly doing so with far more finesse than on TKOL. There’s little chance of them returning to any OK Computer-era guitar rock (although it’s rumoured they’re re-working an old song called ‘Lift’ from that period), as the band have moved beyond such trivial attachments, and Thom Yorke is on record as saying that he hates rock music.

An untrained eye would suggest, then, that we’ve been given little clue as to where the next album will take Radiohead; not so.

Jonny Greenwood has been spending a significant amount of time with The London Contemporary Orchestra, and composing for films such as Inherent Vice. The conceptual pieces he has been creating for these projects could influence the next Radiohead album, especially given that the band recently shared images of them in the studio with a full orchestra.

Though the band’s use of orchestral instruments is not new, we should return, not just to ‘Spectre’, but also to their second most recent song ‘The Daily Mail’. Both of these tracks, unlike TKOL, feature a far more organic collection of instruments, prominent piano, horns and strings. They sound brooding, dramatic and natural, almost filmic.

As mentioned, this is pure speculation, but I believe the band are going to go in the direction of their most recent releases: A more gentle and growth-driven sound rooted in classical instruments, but given a contemporary twist. As a band with such expertise at crafting the most heartbreaking of music, it would be a natural fit to their talents. It’s also a style the band could sit in perfectly, given that they are aging (though gracefully, I should add). This isn’t to say that the band will totally abandon sampling and electronic elements, that’d be a tragedy, but I suspect they’ll be more in the foreground than centre stage.

Of course, this is merely conjecture. Only time will tell whether Radiohead follow through with another gorgeously rich album, or whether, in his spare time, Thom Yorke has got really into acid house…

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