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Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by Melody Bot, May 31, 2016.

  1. Melody Bot

    Your friendly little forum bot. Staff Member

    This article has been imported from for discussion. All of the forum rules still apply.

    Rarely does one have a moderate stance on Radiohead. More often than not, those who are familiar with the band have by now either accepted that Thom Yorke and company are geniuses (or perhaps aliens) or that the band is, as Dan Ozzi so eloquently put it, “for boring music nerds.” It should be no surprise that I fall in the former camp, believing the band’s penchant for mystique and evolution has helped pave the way for other scene favorites (including Thrice and Brand New) and that even their most flawed albums (The Bends, Hail to the Thief) contain a spark that is integral to their later-career masterpieces.

    Kid A, originally dubbed by many as “commercial suicide,” filtered the band’s newfound complexity and Yorke’s intense feelings of alienation through spacey synthesizers and bombastic drum machines. In Rainbows revisited the idea of Radiohead as a “rock” band, building upon 20-years of evolution with warm guitar tones, sometimes clean and sometimes completely fuzzed-out. And now there is A Moon Shaped Pool: Radiohead’s ninth album and arguably their fourth masterpiece, depending on who you’re talking to. Even the biggest Radiohead fans didn’t see this coming. Rather than taking another step forward (or, as some would argue, sideways), A Moon Shaped Pool actually reels itself back and turns inward, both sonically and lyrically.

    I think A Moon Shaped Pool is the closest thing to an In Rainbows sequel we’re going to get. But, at the same time, this feels like an album that will likely find itself as a centerpiece of the band’s discography once all the dust settles. There is still plenty of experimentation here, with Johnny Greenwood’s notable orchestral touch carrying the album, providing a tense backbone for songs like “Burn the Witch” and “Glass Eyes.”

    Outside of these bells and whistles, the compositional arrangements and vocal choirs, this album is built upon the best moments of Radiohead’s stunning discography. “Daydreaming,” while strangely sequenced at track two, blends strings and electronics around the central piano, calling back to several other of the band’s atmospheric ballads, including “Codex” and “Motion Picture Soundtrack.” Things become personal quickly as the song ends on Yorke’s hushed vocals, reversed and slowed down, singing “Half of my life -” likely referring to the recent divorce he and his wife went through after 23 years of marriage.

    Several of these songs have been heard before, in some capacity, often live and often quite different from their now finalized versions. It makes sense that a song like “Present Tense” first appeared in 2008, just one year after the release of In Rainbows, as the plucked guitars and wordless croon could fit anywhere on that album. But the further we dive into A Moon Shaped Pool, the warmer the instrumentation seems to get and the more personal Yorke’s lyrics become. By “Desert Island Disk,” we are treated an almost full acoustic ballad, accompanied only by slight background noise and light drums that usher in the song’s crescendo. Yorke emphasizes that “different types of love are possible,” and by the time “Ful Stop” rolls around, it takes nearly two minutes of buzzing bass and whirring electronics just for Yorke to utter the words, “You really messed up everything.” The song bursts and blooms with quick-paced percussion and guitars, equal parts quiet and menacing.

    “Glass Eyes” does away with the metaphors to reveal a telling a phone call between Yorke and an unknown recipient as he steps off a train mid-panic attack. As strings swell around his delicate lower register, the song becomes this album’s centerpiece. While not nearly as expansive as the rest of the album, “Glass Eyes” is one of the most intimate songs the band has ever written. And that’s before we get to the album closer, “True Love Waits.” The evolution of this fan-favorite for over 20-years is a heart-wrenching one. We now trade major key acoustics for a somber, haunting piano rendition played with over two decades of a broken marriage in mind. “True love waits in haunted attics,” Yorke sings bleakly before begging his lover, “Just don’t leave.” It will go down as perhaps the toughest moment to swallow in the band’s entire catalog, and even those wishing to start the album over again will need to take a second to reflect and let Yorke’s words settle.

    Impressively, there are no missteps here, only songs that feel less notable and more familiar, including “Present Tense” and “The Numbers,” a wonderful callback to the straightforward buildups featured throughout OK Computer. The album may be a little front-heavy, but A Moon Shaped Pool is an experience. Maybe one made less rewarding when the songs are played selectively versus as a whole. But, with decades of expectations pitted against them, it’s almost unbelievable that Radiohead are still capable of a masterpiece like this, and until they officially call it quits, there’s no reason to expect anything less from perhaps the greatest rock band of the 21st century.

    Dan O'Neill likes this.
  2. theredline

    Trusted Supporter

    Brand New in the same league as Radiohead? Not buying that...not even the same planet
    ComedownMachine likes this.
  3. red8ge


    every time you quote dan ozzi on one of these reviews, he loses a year off his life
  4. Ska Senanake


    Agreed. Brand New is way better.
  5. theredline

    Trusted Supporter

    No way. I mean, you can like what you like but Radiohead has easily had a wider influence in music, mainstream and independent. Just the way they released In Rainbows was and industry game changer.
  6. That's...not what I said.
    AshlandATeam likes this.
  7. Anyways, I'm really proud of this one and it's an excellent piece of music, so thanks for reading and I hope you're all getting as much out of the album as I am :teethsmile:
    CoffeeEyes17 likes this.
  8. CoffeeEyes17

    Reclusive-aggressive Prestigious

    Already told you this but great job on the write up bud.

    I love our new system of "rating" albums as recommended or not. Much easier and let's the review speak for itself
    Aaron Mook likes this.
  9. theredline

    Trusted Supporter

    If we're taking evolution sure, both have evolved but if in terms of evolution Radiohead would be a single celled organism to a human. Brand New would be a single celled organism to maybe, a goldfish. I just see them as vastly different.
  10. I'm not even comparing the two though, I'm only saying that Radiohead's "penchant for mystique" and musical evolution influenced those bands' careers
  11. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    I continue not to "get" these guys. This album was a dull slog for me. "Burn the Witch" is such a fantastic opener, but the rest of the album just retreats and rehashes stuff I think they've done better in the past. Good review, though @Aaron Mook, I know you've always been a much bigger fan of these guys than I am.
    js977 and Aaron Mook like this.
  12. theredline

    Trusted Supporter

    If you're not comparing them at all then I wonder why bring them up at all. If it's to say that a band like Brand New saw Radiohead's evolution and thought "hey we can do that too" then I guess I get it. If it was a straight evolution comparison then I maintain Radiohead's is much broader and wider reaching.
  13. theredline

    Trusted Supporter

    By the way @Aaron Mook ..the rest of this review is killer. Spot on and I'm glad there's people here that dig Radiohead too!
    Aaron Mook likes this.
  14. Aaron Mook May 31, 2016
    (Last edited: May 31, 2016)
    I mean, I brought them up simply to point out how widespread Radiohead's influence is and connect them to some artists that are more popular on a site like this. It's really that simple, I just think you might be overthinking this. Thanks for reading though!
  15. theredline May 31, 2016
    (Last edited by a moderator: May 31, 2016)

    Trusted Supporter

    That makes sense. I probably am. Some people just worship that band and while I understand it to a point, some people go overboard and I wasn't sure if that's where you were headed!
    Aaron Mook likes this.
  16. partyscene

    my holy ghost is hovering over me

    You make this album sounds great to be honest, I just can't get into this album at all, but somehow this writing have me intrigued.
    Aaron Mook likes this.
  17. Ska Senanake


    They certainly have had a bigger impact to the music industry I agree, but Brand New have written songs that I thoroughly enjoy listening to way more than Radiohead. And Radiohead is amazing. I'm just part of the cult I guess lol.
  18. Colin Your Enthusiasm

    It's nobody's battle but your own. Prestigious

    Good review Aaron. I didn't know that some of the material was influenced by what you mentionned in the review. Will have to relisten to the album with that in mind. I unfortunately don't enjoy this one quite as much as I do In Rainbows, The Bends and OKC but I will not give up on it just yet. Tough for this record to get much playing time with the new Thrice. Which you wrote a review for as well. Good job on that one too btw lol. It's my current AOTY. Blown away by it.
    Aaron Mook likes this.
  19. Steeeve Perry


    Great review and a great album. I agree it feels like a follow up to In Rainbows. But it also made me want to revisit Hail to the Thief. And I enjoyed that record more than I'd remembered.

    I must say The Bends is one of their best albums though, still. Disagree it is one of their most flawed.

    So far I'd rank this new one just below In Rainbows. OK Computer, Kid A and The Bends ahead of them.
    Aaron Mook likes this.
  20. Hey, thanks a lot! Haha yeah, it's definitely worth reading into some of the personal things that influenced this album as well as reading the Genius annotations for some of the lyrics. Makes the album hit a lot harder imo.

    You know about how much Thrice (specifically Riley) are influenced by Radiohead, right?

    Thanks for reading! It's strange; listening today (I've been on a Radiohead kick since release), I definitely feel as though this album feels like some kin of In Rainbows/OK Computer hybrid. All three albums feel connected in some way, I just haven't taken the time to really explore how yet
  21. Colin Your Enthusiasm Jun 1, 2016
    (Last edited: Jun 1, 2016)
    Colin Your Enthusiasm

    It's nobody's battle but your own. Prestigious

    Not sure what you mean (the bolded part) do you mean iTunes Genius?

    And yeah for sure I love how Thrice are influenced by Radiohead. Their careers in some strange ways are oddly parallel. Both on their ninth album and just their career arcs are similar to me for some reason. Today, it's been new Thrice in the morning now it's new Radiohead in the afternoon. 2016 what a great great year for new music so far.
    Aaron Mook likes this.
  22. Steeeve Perry


    Decks Dark reminds me of OK Computer more than any Radiohead song since 2+2=5
    Aaron Mook likes this.
  23. Same.