Since the beginning of the Iraq war, Radiohead have remained mostly apolitical (though their 2003 album Hail to the Thief did appear to address George W. Bush). But they’ve released their first new song since 2007′s In Rainbows, and it’s a tribute to a fallen soldier. Of course, the soldier in question hasn’t seen battle in quite some time.
Today, the U.K. band unleashed “Harry Patch (In Memory Of),” a brand new track that toasts Harry Patch, the last surviving British veteran of World War I who recently passed away. The track is available for download at the band’s official site in exchange for a single British Pound, and all the proceeds will go to the Royal British Legion. (The song is also streaming at the BBC Web site.)
The track is a slow, florid affair featuring little more than some strings, an organ and frontman Thom Yorke’s haunting voice. The lyric sheet is typically dark and was inspired by statements made by Patch in an interview he gave in 2005. “I’ve seen devils coming up from the ground/ I’ve seen hell upon this earth/ The next will be chemical but they will never learn,” Yorke sings. Patch was talking about the horrors of war and how frightening the evolution of technology is. It’s not the first time the band has taken a stand on an important international social issue, as they were the first participants in MTV’s EXIT campaign.
Radiohead is currently making the rounds on the European festival circuit and will be playing a handful of shows in the U.K., Austria and Poland. And “Harry Patch (In Memory Of)” isn’t the only music Yorke has been working on — he’s also confirmed to be on the soundtrack to “New Moon,” the next film in the “Twilight” saga.