“Man of War” is a crisp mid-tempo ballad with pretty string arrangements and shiny piano parts. Only the occasional shards of distressed electric guitar hint at the anxiety in the nerve-wracking lyrics from Thom Yorke, who warns, “drunken confessions and hijacked affairs will just make you more alone.” During the track’s refrain, he adds, “the worms will come for you.”
The clip makes the tension at the heart of the song more apparent. The time of day in the video keeps changing from bright day to dark evening, and the visual’s mood swings accordingly, whipsawing between cheerful and paranoid. In the daytime, the nondescript central character – a balding man in slacks and a white shirt – walks away from a park and seems relatively carefree. But in the evening, he seems to be hiding something, casting furtive glances over his shoulder and seeing enemies in every shadow.
It’s no accident that “Man of War” comes off as agitated. Speaking with Rolling Stone earlier this year about putting together the OK Computer reissue, Yorke called his mindset during the album’s recording “really bonkers.” “I was basically catatonic,” he added. “The claustrophobia – just having no sense of reality at all … I was getting into the sense of information overload.”
“Man of War” will appear Friday on OKNOTOK along with unreleased songs “I Promise” and “Lift.”