RADIOHEAD | Supercollider/The Butcher

Radiohead is celebrating this Record Store Day with the release of a limited-edition two-track 12-inch vinyl record. Maybe there’s something to the fact both these songs, “Supercollider” and “The Butcher” are about taking things apart — one in the most scientific way possible, and the other by hacking with a cleaver. It fits the motif of the band’s most recent release, “The King of Limbs”, with its images of a world teetering somewhere between catastrophic destruction and cosmic discovery. The first track, “Supercollider”, begins with these lyrics of emergence: “Supercollider / Dust in a moment / Particles scatter / Parting from the soup /Swimming upstream, before the heavens crack / Thin pixelations / Coming out from the dust.” There are flashes and hints of meaning. Images of “shadows” signalling both the “depressions” mentioned directly in the song’s lyrics — and perhaps the well-known stories of atomic bomb blasts so intense they burned people’s shadows into the walls of buildings. It’s a song the encapsulates the extremes of mankind. On one hand, we’re the makers of supercolliders measuring in miles, searching for the meaning of the world in a speck. On the other hand, we’re the same creators that killed a quarter of a million people in two bomb drops over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Okay, trying to pin down a Radiohead track is as fruitful as trying to catch the wind in a net. And frankly, songs are so much better when they have loose ends, insinuations, unique imagery, and contradiction. “Supercollider” is a terrifyingly beautiful and sprawling track, lasting just over seven minutes. It’s quite good, even by Radiohead standards, and reminiscent of “Separator” (the best song on “The King of Limbs”) — with Thom Yorke floating his haunting falsetto over textured electronics, warped synth, hollow percussion, and metronomic blips. “The Butcher” feels even darker and more personal. It begins ominously, with deep organ notes, thudding percussion, and Yorke’s eerie crooning: “Beauty will destroy your mind / Spare the gory details / Give them gift wrapped / For the man with everything.” — David D. Robbins Jr.

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