Radiohead’s landmark third album OK Computer was released 20 years, one month, and one day ago. Tomorrow, it’ll be reissued as OKNOTOK, an expanded edition that includes three unreleased tracks, eight B-sides, and other non-audio artifacts from the era, including “a notebook containing 104 pages from Thom Yorke's library of scrawled notes of the time.” Today, the band has shared a video for one of those previous-unreleased cuts, “Man Of War.”
The clip was directed by Colin Read, whose Vimeo page seems to be entirely made up of skate videos, the most recent of which is entitled Spirit Quest. Is Thom Yorke secretly an avid viewer of underground skating reels, or was Read specifically tapped for the “Man Of War” visuals due to his specialized experience? Since the video is built around tracking shots, the latter is more likely the case.
In it, we follow a man who is being chased by an (imaginary?) crowd that gradually grows over time. Beginning in Brooklyn’s Cooper Park, he quickly enters the wasteland of warehouses that surrounds Newtown Creek in East Williamsburg and Bushwick. That area feels a little apocalyptic to begin with, but here, emphasized by shots that switch between day and night, the effect is pronounced.
“Man Of War” itself is an interesting song that cleanly bridges the gap between OK Computer and Radiohead’s prior release, The Bends. The structure is fairly conventional, like most of their earlier material, but behind the stately piano line and Jonny Greenwood’s guitar heroics lurk unsettling strings, which rise to mirror the video’s climax. The song’s a perfect portrait of a band midway between a transition from britpop standouts to revolutionary enigmas. Fittingly enough, the only time Radiohead performed “Man Of War” (save for a one-off in 2002) was during their 1995 Bends tour.