MENU
Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool CD (album) cover

A MOON SHAPED POOL

Radiohead

 

Crossover Prog

3.95 | 292 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Yup, sounds like Radiohead. In making this album, Radiohead dropped the charade of "we don't want to make full length albums anymore" (which I still somewhat feel like was an excuse for not bothering to fully finish King of Limbs more than anything), and the resulting product sounds like the proper successor that In Rainbows (now 9 years old) never really had. This is both an earnest compliment and a slightly backhanded one; it's nice to hear a collection of polished and meticulously crafted material that shows Radiohead playing to its considerable strengths, on the one hand, but it's kinda somewhat fascinating to me, on the other hand, to hear them continue to cling so closely to their preferred approaches in style and mood, on the other. As with In Rainbows, I don't consider this devotion to what clearly works as anything near a fatal flaw, but as somebody who hovers in the range of liking and respecting the band without loving it, I find myself once again slightly disappointed by this feeling of coasting.

One particular aspect that this album has in common with In Rainbows is that it contains recordings of material that the band had written many years earlier but had never recorded to their satisfaction. The biggest news along these lines concerns the closing "True Love Waits," which had been sparsely played live since its creation in 1995 (and which had previously closed I Might Be Wrong as a ballad for solo acoustic guitar) and finally gets its long-awaited studio release here. This time around, guitar is replaced by overdubbed pianos each playing a simple phrase (but layered and staggered in a way to make the arrangement sound much thicker and more intricate than would any one part), and the end result is quite different from the acoustic version but equally affecting. Honestly, I wouldn't know that this song had any sort of "long-awaited legend" status associated with it if I hadn't gone out of my way to read this, and I don't see this as one of the main highlights of the album, but it's still rather lovely. The leftover that interests me most is the one that starts off the album; "Burn the Witch" originated in the Kid A sessions, and the band had dabbled with it in subsequent sessions, but it wasn't until now that they settled on the right way to approach it. Unlike other typical cases where the band had made use of strings, where they were a decorative flourish (albeit often an important one), this song centers around strings, both in terms of carrying the underpinning harmonies (courtesy of the low strings) and in terms of providing a percussive element (instead of bowing the notes they are struck with the bow, and this incessant striking creates a jittery feel not unlike that of the guitars in early Talking Heads or something like that). The third leftover is "Present Tense," which the band wrote in 2008 but didn't make the cut when the band got around to recording King of Limbs; it's an ok song, featuring acoustic guitars over a Latin beat and ghostly harmonies, and while it probably wouldn't have fit well with the other numbers on King of Limbs, that wouldn't necessarily have been a bad thing.

Of the remaining eight tracks, two clearly stand out from the pack for me. The first is "Daydreaming," which marks the closest the band has come to ambient music since "Treefingers" 16 years earlier; 6+ minutes might seem like much for a track that's basically nothing but sparse singing over a simple piano line with bits of various additional effects (like the eerily just-out-of-tune bits of synth playing something similar to the main piano line), but the time flies by, and when the angry strings swoop in at about the five minute mark, the effect of it is terrific. I should note that I'm not inclined to make a huge deal out of the warped and reversed vocals tucked near the end, with Yorke making various allusions to the end of his long-term relationship; I genuinely thought the first half dozen times I listened that the last 30 seconds was supposed to be snoring and then cellos imitating snoring, and that's kinda the way I prefer it. The other one that wows me is "Ful Stop," which the band had first played on the King of Limbs tour but that (according to my understanding) hadn't been written in time for possible inclusion on that album. It's an incredible exercise in layering arrangements gradually, starting off as a creepy bassline over a pulsating electronic drum part, then adding an incredibly atmospheric slow synth line and bits of production curiosities. By the middle of the song, it becomes something resembling a top-notch Hail to the Thief guitar-heavy number (with all of the previous elements still going strong), and it's in this song especially that I find myself understanding why so many people gush over this album.

Beyond the previously mentioned highlights, the only one that really jumps out at me is the gloriously titled "Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief," which starts off sounding exactly like a high-quality leftover from Kid A/Amensiac but eventually takes on some aspects in the piano and especially the strings that give it a personality distinct from the typical material from those sessions. The other five tracks are ... fine. It would be a lie for me to say that they all sound alike ("Desert Island Disk" starts off with acoustic guitar while the others don't, and "Glass Eyes" has a false start that leads into a lovely sounding bit of treated piano), and I know that they each have their own interesting details when I bother to pay attention closely, but I have listened to this album a very reasonable amount of times and I could not tell you which track was which (if you played me a 15 second clip from the middle of any of them) even with my family's life on the line. I enjoy every single one of them when on, and when the album is off the only lasting impression that any of them leaves with me is "yup, that was a track from Radiohead's 2016 album A Moon Shaped Pool alright, at least I think it was, wait that wasn't from In Rainbows or King of Limbs right ok just checking."

Truth be told, after three listens, I thought about giving this a lower grade, but on the fourth listen "Daydreaming" and "Ful Stop" emerged from the morass as unmistakable highlights (when I already liked the opening "Burn the Witch" a lot, almost certainly because it was first), and they helped me make the case to myself to bump this up. For a serious Radiohead fan, this will probably seem like another message from the gods, and there's no reason for them not to own and like this. For the more casual Radiohead fans among us, this is still a delight, and it's a relief to hear that King of Limbs was just a bump and not a pivot towards clear decline, but it's not a critical part of their career, "True Love Waits" notwithstanding.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |

MEMBERS LOGIN ZONE

As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this RADIOHEAD review

Social review comments () BETA







Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: JazzMusicArchives.com — jazz music reviews and archives | MetalMusicArchives.com — metal music reviews and archives