Radiohead - "I Promise" (Singles Going Steady)

by PopMatters Staff

6 June 2017

Radiohead manages to capture the alienation and existential dread of the end of the millennium but does so through the simplest of ideas.
 

Paul Carr: At first it’s a little jarring to hear a relatively straightforward rock song from Radiohead after years of ceaseless experimentation. Years that have seen the band morph into something almost unrecognisable to the one that changed modern guitar rock music in the late 1990s. The acoustic guitar, the marching, straight drum beat all seem like forgotten keepsakes from past relationships. However, in the context of OK Computer, it retains that visionary beauty of a band attempting to deconstruct the notion of a rock band and replace it with something subtle and more textual. Thom Yorke manages to capture the alienation and existential dread of the end of the millennium but does so through the simplest of ideas—a deceptively straightforward vow to stick around and never leave. A gorgeous and welcome trip down memory lane. [9/10]
  

John Garratt: Whenever a long-lost song appears on a reissue, it’s tempting to play the Why-Wasn’t-It-Included-on-the-Album game. In the case of “I Promise”, the song never even became a B-side—and OK Computer had plenty of b-sides. Radiohead could have probably squeezed out on more single from their landmark third album, but the goodwill might have run out by that point. We could go on about this.

From first listen, “I Promise” comes across as a transitionary song. The band sounds like they’re headed for gloomier pastures set to major keys, but still have one foot set in their Bends sessions where songs took less elongated forms. The video is appropriately cryptic, suiting the band’s typical aloofness. And that disconnected head rivals the near drowning of Thom Yorke during the “No Surprises” video. [8/10]

Adriane Pontecorvo: A previously unreleased track from OK Computer, “I Promise” is a breath of fresh air, the last undiscovered sliver of the 20th century. It couldn’t have come at a better time: it’s a momentary relief from current events that transports you back to the closing credits of a 1990s teen flick. Rosy retrospection aside, the song is strong, a straightforward ballad that puts Thom Yorke’s distinctive voice to good use alongside a few soaring strings and a memorable melody. When the video ends on a surreal note, it ties the whole package together. “I Promise” is a nostalgic cut to curl up with for a long, anxiety-free nap. [9/10]

Chris Ingalls: A previously unreleased track from the OK Computer sessions, “I Promise” seems a lot more raw and less processed than most of that groundbreaking album. It would probably fit nicely on The Bends—it has that kind of simplicity, with acoustic guitar and a marching drum beat eventually giving way to what sounds like some rich mellotron coloring. It’s quite a beautiful thing, a gentle reminder that underneath the electronic squalls and odd time signatures, Radiohead could still slay you with a lovely pop song. [8/10]

SCORE: 8.50

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