Radiohead’s New Single… House of Cards

There is an inherent fragility in Radiohead’s latest single, House of Cards– a tragic simplicity which hints at deeper tones of beauty. A gorgeous, soothing ballad made up of humble parts, yet filled with apprehensive ideas. It is precisely this combination of romance and anxiety that director James Frost captures in his revolutionary new video for Radiohead’s tune. It’s a vision of humanity disintegrating into bits of digital information… albeit with grace and beauty. Thom Yorke and company have continually been ahead of the industry curve when it comes to new technology, whether singing about it [OK Computer], embodying it in sound [Kid A] or utilizing it in new ways to market [In Rainbows]. Thematically they’ve tackled the unnerving and exciting collision between our creativity in industry and classical human self-expression. And with the video for House of Cards they… and Frost… present human feeling existing within the futuristic walls of our computers, yet existing on the very edges of extinction.

Too dismal and dark for you? It shouldn’t be as this tune is so encompassing that it breaks down all of those personal barriers we tend to lock away. There is a story of lust, love and emotional detachment told through the 3D graphics on screen. It begins with the sadly distorted image of the singer, as if he is somehow emerging through television static, struggling to break free from the banality of his current state. In the lyrics of the song he asks for a lover, not a friend… inviting a girl at a suburban soirée to “throw your keys in the bowl” and swing over to his side. They are both tied to other people, but Yorke proposes flinging caution to the wind and diving into lust despite knowing that it will almost certainly end in disaster.

This is where the video itself soars. The images of not only the collapsing lovers, but of the falling world around them, invites the viewer to make larger connections between the small story in this apartment and the broader implications of the pictures. The singer wants us to forget the debility of life and emotion, but the fractured scenes make this impossible. What does it mean to be in “denial,” as Yorke croons in the chorus? Are we kidding ourselves to believe true romance is possible; is trying to escape from the futility of loveless nights in itself futile? Perhaps… but then, can we ever really answer that question without calling upon all of those same dark places that Radiohead so infamously invites us to explore?

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~ by upbeatmag on November 15, 2008.

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