Released with almost no warning, Radiohead again secured their status among the demigods of the music kingdom back in May (June for some of us). Too humble to admit I'd think, Thom Yorke shares pieces of his heart attuned to dismal current developments, the tried trivial tropes lovers make one traverse, the health of our homeworld, and the most potent sides of paranoia in some of the strongest work from them in a good while.
Set squarely in the center of younger Greenwood brother Jonny's orchestral arrangements, this album easily puts itself in the hat for album of the year. The primary components of A Moon Shaped Pool have been kicking around for at least a couple years now, and brings the heart and soul of the same lineup you've known since the beginning. Producer Nigel Godrich returns, as well as long time album artist for Radiohead, Stanley Donwood. With help from the London Contemporary Orchestra, the family has put together something cosmic in a time where it couldn't matter more.
Less than a week before it's release, Radiohead launched two music videos. The first piece a clay-mation horror story; Burn the Witch, seemingly based on themes from The Wicker Man, with lyrics and title strongly speaking on the humanitarian crisis Syrian refugees and many countries around the world are engaging in, along with the blanket scapegoating of the Muslim community.
In contrast, the video for Daydreaming and its lyrics are said to point to themes from Plato's Allegory of the Cave. In the video, Thom Yorke removes himself from the world through a series of interconnected environments eventually leading to a fire lit cave. Perhaps he's left one cave for another, the noise of the city forgotten. The string arrangements here are one of many impressive ones on the album, even giving a thick snoring sound along other strings that play well as light beams. Both videos\songs are among the many favorites on the release, for good reason.
The Numbers is track 8, charging up the listener and the smoothly rolling wheels of verses with an orchestral warmup. The groove is such that I want to slow dance to it, but also turn it up and bob my head to in the car due to that heavy kick on the drum. It made me appreciate having not only a decent set of headphones, and also a flac file copy of the album for review.
My favorites continue with track 3, Deck's Dark, a tune with an introduction by lofty pianos coupled with a tragic theme that doom has arrived in the form of a UFO. It seems like the idea of humanity frailty is every here, of both mind and body when talking on being ragdolls "helpless to disease". Whats more are strong themes of denial and disappointment that cause one to run (a reoccurring theme on this album). Colin Greenwood slyly slips in on bass, with Philip Selway and the chorus following suit shotly after. The instrumental outro is the first real feel of a murky funk and wild guitar effects by both Ed O'Brien and Jonny.
My top pick rests with the hard swinging love song, Identikit. The 7th track, its first 15 seconds ride one set of rails before the style is switched up by Philip on drums. The slight of hand made me rewind it a few times on my first play-through of the album to make sure I wasn't hearing something off. As I write this I realize the small clever switch up is about as low key but significant as the demeanor of lovers Thom speaks about here.
Lyrics enter via an echoed background visage of Yorke proclaiming like smoke:
A moon shaped pool
Dancing clothes won't let me in
And now I know it's never gonna be oh me
This may be a sorrowful thought on the failure to be "picked" by a lover. Elements of scorn and\or defeat are throughout the song, perhaps with double meaning:
Sweet faced ones with nothing left inside
That we all can love
Is this a comment on a lover having a pretty face but nothing to sustain real love, or is it the friend who was defeated, sitting across from the table from you, explaining their war story with an attempt to appear better than they are? We continue on to hear that when we realize things aren't what they seem, and we've been there before, we don't want to deal with it anymore. Once one has seen enough bullshit, you can predict the future. The "ragdoll mankind' may even give chase to a theme of perhaps not only being disposable as well as an ability to withstand an epic weathering. Broken hearts make it rain indeed.
There is much to be had and enjoyed here on A Moon Shaped Pool. Long time Radiohead fans will hear the long awaited album version of True Love Waits. For new fans, it's a fantastic starting point to their 30 year musical legacy. Tickets to Radiohead shows are like Golden Tickets, and with luck, we'll be covering Radiohead here in a couple months at Austin City Limits. Either way, being among the lucky few.
Until next time my friends,