Radiohead: ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’

May 12, 2016


Features Editor | jts040@latech.edu



Everyone had heard the whispers. Dark, (not-so) secret murmuring in the depths of Internet forums and the hearts of diehard fans alike. Radiohead was releasing its ninth album sometime this year.  It was a tenuous proposition. Radiohead had not released an album since 2011’s “The King of Limbs,” a perfectly passable album overshadowed by the tremendous power of the previous release “In Rainbows.”



But, still, it had to be coming. On May 8, after a release campaign that involved scrubbing their social media presence and sending pamphlets to U.K. fans that read, “We know where you live,” the band released “A Moon Shaped Pool.”



Reviewing a Radiohead album with only three days to digest it almost seems criminal. The headspace their albums put listeners in is hard to escape from in order to swallow the lyrical and sonic content. It’s something like a nighttime peyote dream-quest in the desert, or dark tabs of acid taken in wet alleyways.  Breaking out of the forced hallucinogenic mind trip reveals an album concerned with government surveillance, damaging views of modern civilization and heartbreak. So much heartbreak.



“Burn the Witch,” the album’s opener and the first released single, is an unsettling statement on government intrusion and groupthink.  It begins the album deceptively with a driving string section that fades into a quiet melancholia for the next song “Daydreaming.”



In the album’s closer “True Love Waits,” singer Thom Yorke croons, “Just don’t leave/don’t leave.” The song, first released in 2001 on the live album “I Might Be Wrong,” feels much more visceral here. Yorke recently separated from his partner of 23 years, and the song’s beseeching comes across more as a resignation than an effort that could change minds. He’s older and wiser here, and his love has left. He’s pleading with nothing.



“Glass Eyes” is the album’s highlight. Sung as a dictation over the phone (to a lover? a mother?), the song details a panic attack upon an arrival at the train station, as Yorke sings, “Hey it’s me/I just got off the train/A frightening place/Their faces are concrete grey/And I’m wondering, should I turn around?”



Radiohead is the only band still recording that can cause such a turmoil with such a weird, eerily wonderful album. Alongside huge releases such as “Lemonade” and “Views,” the quintet holds their own in popularity.


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