Radiohead Stuns With Anthem for WWI Vet

By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 10, 2009 7:39 AM CDT

(Newser) – Radiohead made waves when they let fans download their last album for whatever price they wanted, yet a new online-only track has been released in the past week to far less fanfare. "Harry Patch (In Memory Of)" commemorates the last British veteran of World War I, who died last month aged 111, and proceeds from downloads are going to a military charity. The lush, orchestral song is a "masterly achievement" far from their traditional sound, writes Wall Street Journal critic Jim Fusilli.

The song uses Patch's own words as lyrics, drawing on a 2005 interview given after 80 years' silence about his experiences in the trenches of Passchendaele. Over Thom Yorke's "childlike falsetto," Jonny Greenwood unfurls "what is by turns a eulogy and an anthem," leaving out the band's normal rhythm section for echoing strings. Even after all their high-concept songwriting, writes Fusilli, "there is nothing as elegant as what the band is doing here."