Idioteque – Radiohead

Climate change is happening. We're not scaremongering. This is really happening.

Idioteque is a song by English rock band Radiohead, featured as the eighth trachk from their 2000 album Kid A. Although never released as a single as with all other songs on the album, it has since become one of the band’s most famous and popular songs amongst critics and fans. The song has been played at nearly every concert since 2000.

It is commonly described as an electronic dance song and takes the idea of electronic music to the limit of no longer being considered rock: a coherent fusion of electronic dance music with Radiohead’s distinctive style.

Idioteque contains two credited samples of experimental 1970s computer music. The first is several seconds of “Mild und Leise, a piece by Paul Lansky, forming the four chord progression repeated throughout the song. Mild und Leise is 18 minutes long and through composed. The portion sampled by Radiohead is only heard once in the original piece, very briefly. Also sampled is “Short Piece” by Arthur Kreiger, now a professor of music at Connecticut College. Both tracks were compiled on the 1976 LP First Recordings — Electronic Music Winners, which Radiohead instrumentalist Jonny Greenwood stumbled upon while the band was working on Kid A.

Paul Lansky approved Greenwood’s sampling and has since written an essay on Idioteque, found in the book The Music and Art of Radiohead. Lansky noted that, while Radiohead’s song may hinge on a sample from his work, the Mild und Leise chord progression they used was itself “sampled” by Lansky from a leitmotif of the Richard Wagner opera “Tristan und Isolde“.

On the original album release, the song was credited as having been written by Radiohead with an additional credit for the samples used. On the group’s later album I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings, the songwriting credit is given to “Radiohead & Paul Lansky”.

Idioteque contains some of Thom Yorke’s most heavily analyzed lyrics. Yorke, Radiohead’s singer and songwriter, does not directly explain them, but Idioteque has been described by others as an “apocalyptic” song, with possible references to natural disaster, war and technological breakdown. Many fans interpret Idioteque as having something to do with climate change, an issue on which Yorke is outspoken and has admitted inspired subsequent songs, such as 2003’s “Sail to the Moon” and those on his 2006 solo album The Eraser.

The song opens with the lines: “Who’s in a bunker, who’s in a bunker?/ Women and children first, and the children…” Yorke has not explained the reference, but has said other songs, such as 2003’s “I Will” and “Sit Down. Stand Up.” from the album Hail to the Thief were about civilians killed in military conflict and genocide.

The lines “We’re not scaremongering/This is really happening” clearly seem to refer to global warming deniers, as well as the ironic “Ice age coming/Let me hear both sides” seem to address the scientific division between global warming as man-made or as natural cyclic phenomenon. In general, there is an underlying message about seeking privileges at the expense of others and specifically at the expense of the Earth, for those who aim to accumulate as much as possible without any regard for social-environmental ethics (Mobiles squerking/Mobiles chirping/Take the money run).

Who’s in a bunker?
Who’s in a bunker?
Women and children first
And the children first
And the children

I’ll laugh until my head comes off
I’ll swallow till I burst
Until I burst
Until I

Who’s in a bunker?
Who’s in a bunker?
I have seen too much
I haven’t seen enough
You haven’t seen it

I’ll laugh until my head comes off
Women and children first
And children first
And children

Here I’m alive
Everything all of the time
Here I’m alive
Everything all of the time

Ice age coming
Ice age coming
Let me hear both sides
Let me hear both sides
Let me hear both

Ice age coming
Ice age coming
Throw it in the fire
Throw it in the fire
Throw it on the

We’re not scaremongering
This is really happening
Happening
We’re not scaremongering
This is really happening
Happening

Mobiles squerking
Mobiles chirping
Take the money run
Take the money run
Take the money

Here I’m alive
Everything all of the time
Here I’m alive
Everything all of the time

Here I’m alive
Everything all of the time
Here I’m alive
Everything all of the time

The first of the children [Repeat until fade]

Idioteque – Radiohead
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Sounds from the Bucket
Marco Principia

Born in Rome, his beloved city. Graduated with honors in Political Science and International Relations at Università degli Studi "Roma Tre". Expert of current affairs and United Nations. Recently attended a course in Humanitarian Emergency at INTERSOS. Currently employed at CIES - ONLUS in the Coordination and Organization Office for Interpreting and Translation Service for Territorial Commissions for the Recognition of International Protection. Huge fan of A.S. Roma.
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