Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool

by paul_guyet Rating:9 Release Date:2016-05-08

There's a line in Marcel Proust's Within a Budding Grove that refers to a small village seen just at sunrise but before the sunlight has actual hit it: "It's pond encrusted with the opalescent nacre of night".* That phrase, "The opalescent nacre of night", keeps returning to me as I listen and relisten to the newest release from Radiohead. If we're getting conspiratorial, then I believe the opener, the frantic, paranoid buzz of 'Burn the Witch' is the only 'waking' track, something so horrible and prophetic that the narrator is overstimulated and driven into a soporific escape from reality.

This is where the rest of the album takes place. After this assault and retreat, the theory is cemented by the watery blur of 'Daydreaming', which even concludes with low strings and vocalizations serving as fitful sleeping noises. There are a few crescendos on Moon Shaped Pool, but all of them are soft. For the most part, the BPMs are low. And almost everything drifts along on Jonny Greenwood's syrupy orchestration. 

As far as reviewing something like this...I'm really at a loss. It doesn't feel like a typical Radiohead album (whatever the hell that is). It's like trying to review a series of dreams or imagined vignettes, perhaps all taking place in those ubiquitous 'five minutes' one always begs for before their day must begin. Greenwood's amazing, emotive strings play the same role here as David Campbell's orchestration on Beck's Sea Change and Morning Phase, specifically to deepen and widen the experience, to give it more meaning. The slow, sad, glorious bloom of 'Decks Dark', the recounted anxiety-dream feel of 'Glass Eyes', 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief', which stands out in the most interesting way**, that heartwrenching, faux choir on 'Identikit'. There's more space here, sometimes filled with sparkling keys or electronic sputters or just silence, on the whole making Moon Shaped Pool sound a bit more like Yorke's solo work. 

For a while, before they erased themselves from the internet, released two videos and then the whole thing in a matter of days, there was talk that this album was to be titled Dawn Chorus, which wouldn't have been totally accurate, because of that ever-present "opalescent nacre of night" here that I mentioned earlier. 

At this point in their career, I wonder how Radiohead garners new fans. They've been around for over two decades and, I feel, you either like a few of their songs***, are dangerously, slavishly devoted to them, or cannot stand Thom Yorke's voice/don't know what a radio head is. If you're in that second category, you've already downloaded the digital version, pre-ordered the CD and/or vinyl, and, most likely, the elaborate and, no doubt, spectacular special edition as well, and you're not going to cancel your orders based on anything written are you reading this?

* Fuck my eyes that is the most pretentious sentence I've written since college.

** Something feels Bond-ish. Maybe an earlier and completely disparate draft of 'Spectre'?


Comments (5)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

This is good stuff, fuck the APA.

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Great review! I like that I hear the band on this record......King of Limbs had me imagining everyone seated around Thom and his laptop, watching and waiting.

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Who is the APA ? American Psychological Association ? did they say that listening to Radiohead would jeopardise your mental health ?

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Yes, but no. At least, not that I'm aware of. APA format - college - citations. Maybe it fell flat.

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OK, I completely misunderstood, being an Aussie and all ! But yeah, it's a cool review.

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