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Music

The Radiohead song Thom Yorke felt the need to clarify

Kid A was a whiplash-inducing album from start to finish. Although Radiohead had famously pushed the boundaries of rock with 1997’s OK Computer, that album was still mostly using guitar music as a way to explore futuristic soundscapes. Kid A, on the other hand, was mostly the soundscapes taking over. Guitar was no longer a necessary instrument for the kinds of sounds that the band were conjuring up.

Just as they had radically shifted when it came to music, Radiohead had also gone deeper down the oblique lyrical rabbit hole. What did it mean to wake up sucking a lemon? What are treefingers? Who is it in the bunker? Why are dinosaurs roaming the earth? The more that you looked into them, the less sense the themes and illusions on Kid A seemed to make. 

That was until you got to the final song, ‘Motion Picture Soundtrack’. A beautiful and melancholy track that recounts the intake of red wine and sleeping pills, Thom Yorke intones a wistful goodbye over the final part of the track, promising to “See you in the next life.” Most of Kid A was a bit too opaque to see through, but it seemed pretty obvious that ‘Motion Picture Soundtrack’ set the stage for a suicide.

Not so, at least not according to Yorke himself. For a man who seems relatively averse to describing his intentions and creative processes, Yorke decided to take some time to clear up some confusion when it came to one of the band’s most statistically gloomy tracks.

While speaking to Observer Music Magazine in 2007, Yorke was asked point blank whether ‘Motion Picture Soundtrack’ involved a suicide. “No, ‘Motion Picture Soundtrack’ ends with little tweety angel noises, I seem to remember,” Yorke explained, singing the final lines for clarity. “’I will see you in the next life…’ No, that could just be saying goodbye to someone dying. They don’t have to be doing it themselves. You can read suicide into most things, can’t you?”

It’s not the only Radiohead song that seems to cover the topic. ‘High and Dry’ from The Bends also got pegged as a glorification of suicide, mainly thanks to the lines “Kill yourself for recognition / Kill yourself to never ever stop.” Yorke similarly insisted that those lines were about posturing and fakeness rather than actual suicide, but Radiohead’s reputation for doom and gloom has never really gone away, especially since their last effort A Moon Shaped Pool is as close to a dirge as the band has ever made.

Check out ‘Motion Picture Soundtrack’ down below.