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Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

May 23, 2016

In an earlier post I shared my exasperation with Radiohead’s distribution model for A Moon Shaped Pool.  I was still annoyed with Radiohead when I eventually broke down and got a Tidal subscription about a week ago. I have had a love/hate relationship with Radiohead since Kid A. So exasperation is all part of the deal with Radiohead and me.

I have some history with Tidal too. I was an early adopter of Tidal when their shtick was CD-quality streams. That gimmick never panned out for me, but their recently exclusive content has worn me down. Fortunately they have a family plan and so I joined my son’s plan (my son’s breaking point was Prince’s death and the dearth of his music on Spotify).

Well the bastards have done it: this is, for me,  their best album since Ok Computer and it is the most conventionally beautiful in their catalog. In a word it is brilliant.

The week before the release of  A Moon Shaped Pool Radiohead released “Burn The Witch.”  It may be the most accessible Radiohead single since “Creep.”  The song would not sound out-of-place on a U2 or Coldplay album. That is not meant as some kind of snarky put down – writing a catchy pop song is high art in my book. “Burn The Witch” opens A Moon Shaped Pool.  In addition to being a great pop song it is pretty topical too.  It has a pretty great video too – here it is (in case you were not one of the 15 million views):

“Daydreaming” is classic post OK Computer atmospheric weirdness. It starts out with the obvious:

They never learn

And ends with the obscure mantra:

Evol ym dnuof ev’I

That turns out to not be so obscure after all – the mantra is “I’ve found my love” backwards.  The song also has a nice video:

“Decks Dark” is a beautiful slow song.  It has a lush arrangement complete with chorale voices.  It reminds of that feeling you have as you about to fall asleep.  But about the two-thirds of the way through it transitions into a vivid dream.

“Desert Island Disk” focuses on acoustic guitars!  Radiohead are getting their Nick Drake groove on.  I can’t think of a better way of putting it: his is a pretty song.

“Ful Stop” opens with heart-like beat that morphs into a more subtle menacing sound.  By the half way point it is everything Radiohead does best – stark and epic at the same time.  I can’t wait to hear this number live.

“Glass Eyes” opens with a very cool keyboard and stings intro.  This is a very cinematic sounding track. The strings are perfect augmentation to Thom Yorke’s gorgeous voice.

“Identikit” focuses on the rhythm, yet it ends with a very nice electic guitar solo.

Every time I hear “The Numbers” it reminds me of one of my favorite bands: Traffic.  It has a nice hippie psychedelic feel, yet it is utterly Radiohead.

“Present Tense” teases you with little whiffs of Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice.”

“Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief” is Kid A sounding Radiohead.  This is the most minimalist track on the album, but it is still compelling.  As the song progresses it gets richer.

“True Love Waits” closes out the album with a quite meditation on love.  The lyrics are both clear and obscure:

I’ll drown my beliefs
To have your babies
I’ll dress like your niece
And wash your swollen feet

Just don’t leave
Don’t leave

I’m not living, I’m just killing time
Your tiny hands, your crazy-kitten smile

Just don’t leave
Don’t leave

And true love waits
In haunted attics
And true love lives
On lollipops and crisps

Just don’t leave
Don’t leave

I have not fallen for a Radiohead album this hard since OK Computer.  I don’t know how to categorize what is going on here – rock, pop, electronica, ambient, classical, etc. Radiohead have claimed a piece of the pop space that is all their own.  This is Radiohead music – there is no other way to classify it. All is forgiven.


From → Music Reviews

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