Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool – Album Review by Killian Laher
So Radiohead have ambushed the music world with their 9th album, the hilariously titled A Poo Shaped Moo… oh ok, then A Moon Shaped Pool. It’s difficult to approach reviewing an album like this, from a band as critically-venerated as Radiohead, particularly when there has been a torrent of largely positive reviews since its release last Sunday.
What’s without doubt is that, try as you might, Radiohead are hard to ignore, and five years after the more-miss-than-hit The King of Limbs they have dialled back the more electronic elements in favour of a more organic, relaxed sound. The frantic, twitching opener is a little atypical, it’s pulsing guitars and droning organ almost sound like an update of Joy Division’s Transmission. With Nigel Godrich on production, strings pop up throughout the album, here providing a calm interlude on a track where Thom Yorke sings about “this is a low flying panic attack.” But from here on, we enter a fairly zen mode, some gorgeous piano dominates the serenely drifting Daydreaming. An early highlight, it does no more than necessary, the arrangement is supremely economic, and Yorke sings with restraint, which really suits the track. Atmospheric and downbeat, it wouldn’t be out of place on any of their revered older albums.
The quality doesn’t drop from here, Decks Dark has a haunting quality which harks back to some of the material on OK Computer, Yorke somehow manages to make “your darkest hour” sound blissful. The acoustic guitar picking that opens Desert Island Disk is even more blissful, and is one of many moments that sounds like the band have been listening to “classic rock”. Radiohead’s more out-there moments have been commonplace on recent material but here they are reined in, the droning intro to Ful Stop being one exception, whatever melody is here is buried under a sea of effects until the guitars kick in. It’s what many were afraid the whole album would sound like.
Tracks like Identikit and Present Tense sound like a throwback to In Rainbows with identifiable guitar lines and almost singalong melodies. On the other hand The Numbers is certainly rooted in classic rock, the guitar chord progression is reminiscent of Led Zeppelin III, that is until Godrich throws a bunch string arrangements on it, taking the track in another direction, which Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor expands on, ending up in a highly orchestrated destination. However, final track True Love Waits is kind of like going out with a whimper, it doesn’t have the immersive quality of much of the rest of the album. It’s more of a straight piano ballad, and feels slightly out of place here.
It’s definitely not the album to “save rock and roll” but it’s a more musical and serene album than anybody really expected. It’s way better than The King of Limbs, that’s for sure.
1. Burn The Witch
3. Decks Dark
4. Desert Island Disk
5. Ful Stop
6. Glass Eyes
8. The Numbers
9. Present Tense
10. Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief
11. True Love Waits
Burn The Witch: