Radiohead: A Moon Shaped Pool

5/5 stars
Oxford’s Radiohead occupy a remarkable position in the grand scheme of modern popular music. A motley group of misfit art-school intellectuals who make world-changing music, the five-piece pretty much have carte blanche to do things the way they want, and have settled into the rhythm of knocking out an album every few years. Always surprising, yet always quintessentially Radiohead, they usually do it without too much fanfare, and yet people the world over sit up and take notice.
A Moon Shaped Pool, their ninth LP proper, is both progressive and nostalgic. Calm down, there’s still no “Creep” remake here, but bookending the album are a couple of tracks that delve way back into Radiohead folklore. Opener “Burn the Witch” dates from sometime around the Kid A sessions from 2000, while closer “True Love Waits” has been knocking about for even longer. “I’m not livin’/I’m just killing time” sings Thom Yorke, here accompanied only by a drowning piano, where before the track was an acoustic guitar-led ‘Easter Egg’ at the odd live gig.
Elsewhere, there are other hints at old ideas, updated and replayed as those notions find a new relevance. As with everything Radiohead, AMSP embraces the foreboding sense that we are all, literally f****d, but Yorke sounds much more accepting of our global impending doom than he ever did, both lyrically and in the orchestral arrangements of tracks like “The Numbers”. The line “Your system is a lie/The river running dry” is a clear-cut indictment, but its delivery – no more than a sigh drenched in gorgeous sweeping strings – hints at acceptance rather than anger. Yorke recently separated from his wife of 20-plus years, and as a result he no longer seems to be the angry young man he once was. “Daydreaming” is perhaps the most telling of all. Mournful yet comfortably numb, the video sees Yorke walking around other people getting on with their daily routines in a blank daze. “It’s too late,” he sings: “The damage is done”.
Chances are if you are already a Radiohead devotee, you’ll already have dived into the magical A Moon Shaped Pool, but for anyone still sat on the fence I urge you to at least dip a toe or two in.
Dan Ashcroft might be wrong.
Like this? Try these:
Junip – Fields
Jose Gonzalez and chums plug in for a dose of psychedelic chill.
Alt-J – This is All Yours
Art-school misfits deliver sparkling second album.
Ben Howard – I Forget Where We Were
Happy-go-lucky surfie turns to the dark side.

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