It’s generally accepted that Paul Thomas Anderson is, well, a genius. That being said, should a genius really be wasting his talents on the directing of a music video that could have just as easily been filmed with an iPhone and an adjustable camera holder?
Apparently, the answer is yes when it comes to directing Radiohead, whose latest album, A Moon Shaped Pool, is coming up with no shortage of singles. PT’s history with the band has been developing quickly in the wake of the “Daydreaming” video. But where “Daydreaming” is an evocative, often uncomfortable glimpse at emotionalism, the “simplicity shtick” of “Present Tense” is this: just Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood and a Roland CR-78. What more could a viewer need? The response to this is, of course, an actual narrative worthy of Anderson’s abilities.
The careful unfolding of the plot of “Daydreaming” is centered around Yorke’s despondency upon finding himself in different everyday scenarios–an outsider looking in on such milieus as a dirty kitchen, a laundromat and a grocery store. Conversely, there is nothing evocative about “Present Tense,” with Yorke barely glancing into the camera whilst singing–though he does, at the very least, offer a few occasional impromptu dance moves (nothing on the same level as “Lotus Flower,” however).
But maybe Yorke wanted it precisely this way–for the “Present Tense” video to be, in many ways, frivolous. Perhaps he is merely heeding the advice contained in the lyrics, “I won’t get heavy/Don’t get heavy/Keep it light/And keep it moving.” Be that as it may, did Radiohead really need to enlist the greatness that is PT Anderson for this type of message to be conveyed?