Why Is Thom Yorke Messing With Our Heads?

It's been a week since Radiohead's new The King of Limbs came out directly to an online audience before getting a proper release. Besides some middling reviews (including our own), accompanying the album was the first single and video for "Lotus Flower," featuring lead singer Thom Yorke in black and white doing a three-minutes soft-shoe resembling Fred Astaire on crack.

As Yorke has aged, he's gotten more theatrical. If you have seen Radiohead in concert in the past five years, you will know that the singer has started dancing like this rather recently. Rocks Off saw the band at the Woodlands in May 2008, and Yorke reminded us of David Byrne's stage persona around Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense period.

The Yorke we knew in the '90s who would hunch over a guitar is gone we presume. Now he's kicking out the jams, motherfuckers, with some little kicks a la Elaine from Seinfeld, but cooler.

But a video like "Lotus Flower" seems almost eerily calculated, but in a fun way, as if the band wanted the Internet to exploit it. Earlier videos from the band were animated, performance based, or, in the case of In Rainbows' "All I Need," a rumination on sweatshops and lazy American children.

The most dramatic the band got was for the OK Computer singles. Remember "No Surprises" with the space helmet filling with water?

The fact remains that it's hard for a band to break a song or album to greater audience without some sort of odd viral hook, like a creepy music video. It would only be another stop on Radiohead's changing marketing plan the past four year. Look at the dredges in OK Go. They suck 365/24/7, but your mom loves them because the videos are cute. Go figure. It sells albums, downloads, whatever.

By last Saturday, dozens of "Lotus Flower" spoofs arrived online, from the "Single Ladies" concoction, to Yorke whipping his hair back and forth like Willow Smith. Either way, it has to be working. It's reminding people that a new Radiohead album is out.

Or that Yorke is the modern rock Mr. Bean.

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Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty