If you hate climate change but love Radiohead, man do I have a two-for-one deal for you. The band has released 18 hours of OK Computer-era recordings it says were being held for ransom after band member Thom Yorke’s minidisc archive was stolen. The band is donating the proceeds from the sale over the next 18 days will go to Extinction Rebellion, the activist group that locked down large parts of London earlier this year and was instrumental in forcing the UK Parliament to declare the world’s first national climate emergency while fighting to ensure we don’t end up living in a world full of fake plastic trees.
The fable of the pilfered minidiscs began circulating on the main Radiohead subreddit last week. The band confirmed the Reddit rumors of the 1.8 gigabytes of jacked minidisc recordings, alleging that hackers were threatening to release the audio unless the band coughed up $150,000. Rather than do that, the band announced it was releasing the tapes themselves. The material is selling on Bandcamp for £18 (about $23 USD) and Jonny Greenwood said in a tweeted screenshot of an email referencing the Big Lebowski (because this is our world now) that fans would have the opportunity to listen and “find out if we should have paid that ransom.” The note is a bit confusing in that it says the minidisc archive thief “reportedly” asked for $150,000, which seems like something the band would know, and which Earther has reached out to Radiohead for clarity on. Regardless, the release will only be available for 18 days.
As someone who sits between a casual and fairly invested Radiohead fan, my first listen to the tracks, which include a mix of demos, rarities, snippets, studio talk, and live recordings didn’t leave me let down, but your mileage may vary. There are likely no surprises for fans of the band, but the chance to listen through multiple recordings and outtakes of hits like Paranoid Android as they try to get everything in its right place and fan favorite Lift (which the band officially released 20 years after recording it and playing live) is still pretty novel. I wouldn’t recommend sitting with them for the full 18 hours in one listen, but hey, you do you.
The tracks serve as more than an addition to devoted Radiohead fan shrines, though. Extinction Rebellion will be the lucky recipient of the funds raised over the next 18 days. Earther also asked the band why they chose to donate to Extinction Rebellion, but this isn’t the first time the group has used their music to raise awareness about the climate crisis. The climate group said in a press release that it was “so grateful” to the band and that “[w]ords are inadequate but actions do change the world.”
Extinction Rebellion has rapidly shifted the discussion on climate change in the UK by staging theatrical protests there and around the world. Its goal is to get governments to face a moment of reckoning and “tell the truth” about the climate and ecological crises humanity faces. The group is also calling for governments to create “Citizens Assembly on climate and ecological justice” that will guide the government’s action to address said crises, acting as an airbag to protect humanity from its worst instincts of overconsumption, environmental destruction, and isolation from the natural world. All of which happen to be themes that run throughout Radiohead’s discography.