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Present Tense is the ninth track from Radiohead's ninth studio album, A Moon Shaped Pool.

History

The earliest versions of Present Tense being played live date back to 2009, when Thom debuted the song at Latitude festival during a solo set on acoustic guitar. At that time the song was called The Present Tense. Thom played the song in various solo shows, and with his band Atoms For Peace, but it wasn't officially released until A Moon Shaped Pool in 2016. In version produced in the album, the song has been developed to include a Latin shuffle beat - influenced by Brazilian samba and bossanova music - and multiple overlapping guitar lines, as well as various effects on Thom's voice.

Norwegian Wood

Norwegian Wood 09

Norwegian Wood 09. "Shut Up Like a Good Boy"

The chord progression, especially in the intro, is very reminiscent of "Shut up like a good Boy"; a piece Jonny Greenwood composed for the soundtrack to the Japanese film Norwegian Wood (2010), directed by Tran Anh Hung, and based on the 1987 novel by Haruki Murakami. The piece featured in the film is much slower and more minimalist than Present Tense, but the chord sequence is clearly recognisable.

Music Video

On September 15th 2016, Radiohead's official YouTube channel released a video of a version of Present Tense played by Jonny and Thom, using a CR78 drum machine. The video was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, filmed outdoors, in a "Live session" style. The version of the song performed is almost identical to the album version, with a small amount of improvisation on Thom's part.
Radiohead - Present Tense- Jonny, Thom & a CR78

Radiohead - Present Tense- Jonny, Thom & a CR78

Notable Performances

The song was first performed solo by Thom at Latitude festival in 2009.
Thom Yorke - The Present Tense (Latitude 2009)

Thom Yorke - The Present Tense (Latitude 2009)

Lyrics

The lyrics allude vaguely to the Buddhist notions of escaping from the present by being a threatening space, and allow the destruction of the inner world, by being blind, deaf and dumb (as the oriental image of the three monkeys blind, deaf and dumb).

[Verse 1]
This dance
This dance
Is like a weapon
Is like a weapon
Of self-defence
Of self-defence
Against the present
Against the present
The present tense
No, I won't get heavy
Don't get heavy
Keep it light and
Keep it moving
I am doing
No harm
As my world
Comes crashing down
I'll be dancing
Freaking out
Deaf, dumb, and blind

[Hook]
In you, I'm lost
In you, I'm lost

[Verse 2]
I won't turn around
Or the penny will drop
Won't stop now
Won't slack off
Or all this love
Will be in vain
To stop from falling
Down a mine
It's no one's business
But mine
Where all this love
Has been in vain

[Hook]
In you, I'm lost
In you, I'm lost
In you, I'm lost
In you, I'm lost