Published by JB on May 13, 2016
Album release date: May 8, 2016
Album Review: Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
Radiohead challenges us. Again.
Somewhat surprisingly eschewing any resemblance of their rock and roll DNA, Radiohead adds to their increasingly complex catalog with their most personal album to date, A Moon Shaped Pool. Where In Rainbows and King of Limbs shared a connection between Radiohead rock and and the futuristic Radiohead (mostly via Thom Yorke’s Atoms For Peace forays into electronic music), A Moon Shaped Pool goes against any predictive return of their beloved rock flourishes. Instead Radiohead picks up where King of Limbs and Thom Yorke left off. It’s the least radio-friendly Radiohead album of their catalog. In fact, there isn’t a song on A Moon Shaped Pool you’ll easily find on any rock channel.
For those hoping for some new blazing guitar gems (like In Rainbows delivered) it’s not to be. A Moon Shaped Pool is an often odd collection and not easily absorbed upon the first couple listens. Is it a great album? Or are we simply listening to it trying to find reasons to claim it great? Perhaps a little of both.
Yorke’s angelic falsetto is again the album’s glue. His voice and his plethora of verbal emoji’s throughout the album is still the band’s calling card. The complexity of the arrangements is the Radiohead we’ve witnessed since Kid A. We’ve come to expect that challenge from Radiohead even though some of their albums (i.e., the near perfect In Rainbows) displayed their most straight forward songs since The Bends. A Moon Shaped Pool is a complete maze, with detailed arrangements, obscure sounds, brief melodies and sudden changes in direction. There’s no verse/bridge/chorus tracks to be found. It’s simply Radiohead being Radiohead.
The track arrangement of A Moon Shaped Pool, fits together like a mosaic of an album and actually features a bulk of its tracks from compositions between 1995 to 2012 . It’s a partial greatest hits collection of the best Radiohead obscurities that loyal fans have had around for years. That creates a frustrating dichotomy with this collection. How do you view this as a truly new collection of sonic creations when five of the tracks are a potpourri of Radiohead past? To the diehards, half of this album isn’t very new. That makes it, at times, more difficult to emotionally absorb.
Sure enough standout tracks like ‘Burn the Witch’, ‘The Numbers’, ‘Identikit’ (or whatever tracks tickle your Thom Yorke and Greenwood brothers fancy), Radiohead still sounds like no other. Ever since ‘Paranoid Android’ and ‘Let Down’ on OK Computer something has always been different. The truth of this album is that it sounds very much like Radiohead – even the Pink Floyd-like stylings in ‘Ful Stop’.
With all their greatness firmly in place it’s frustrating to note that since the 2007 release of In Rainbows Radiohead has only delivered 2 modest albums of material in the past 8-9 years. That’s still a staggering low amount of new material for a band this vital to our musical conscience. The Beatles only existed for 8 years.
This album won’t sit on the top shelf up there with Kid A and OK Computer and it won’t satisfy all those who found King of Limbs a disappointment; but yet it’s another endearing, beautiful chapter in the most respected, critically-acclaimed catalog since those four Liverpool guys broke up in 1970.