“Like nothing you’ve ever heard” is how band co-manager Brian Message described this record, back in April this year. This may well have been a cheeky jibe at the public, considering seven of the eleven songs have been played or teased previously by the group, but the statement contains a lot of truth. Radiohead’s ninth LP A Moon Shaped Pool (AMSP) offers a completely new direction for the ever transforming band. Gone are the electronic skits of The King Of Limbs and in place come piano and strings that result in an astonishingly melancholic and serene affair.
Lead single ‘Burn The Witch’ is a bit misleading, clearly born in the Hail To The Thief sessions, it is the brashest song of the lot with violent, hell-raising strings. The follow up single ‘Daydreaming’ gives more of an insight in to AMSP with it’s meandering pianos and Thom Yorke’s soft vocals offering a glimpse of the quiet melancholy to follow. ‘Decks Dark’ is certainly an example of this, an alluring delicate piece with shimmering pianos and a somber bass line that come together nicely.
‘Glass Eyes’ is the perfect centre-point, a heart wrenching piano ballad about anxiety; “Panic is coming on strong, so cold from the inside out” lined with throbbing strings. ‘The Numbers’ is again, a gloomy piece, about climate change which urges a “call upon the people”. Musically it is quite folky with acoustic guitars reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway To Heaven’ and piano droplets similar to those heard on Moby’s Play. Following track ‘Present Tense’ has an element of folk to it too, but feels more like an In Rainbows track with plenty of acoustic guitar and maracas, a lighter ‘Reckoner’.
‘Full Stop’ and ‘Identikit’ are the two most upbeat pieces. The former is possibly the pick of the bunch, starting with a gritty swirl of rolling bass and drums that blooms into an array of guitars and synth, different to ‘Burn The Witch’, but similarly haunting. The latter continues the In Rainbows theme with, ‘ 15 Steps’ style, scatty drum beats building to roaring yells of “broken hearts make it rain”.
The album finishes with the gentle sob of ‘True Love Waits’, as Yorke gives his final plea of “don’t leave”. It’s a song that aptly sums up the sorrow of AMSP. The record as a whole is perhaps not as perfect as In Rainbows or The Bends and if you aren’t already a Radiohead fan, this isn’t the album to become one. However the band have once again proved that they can still deliver thought-provoking records 23 years on from their debut, and much like Pablo Honey’s ‘Creep’, AMSP is a thing of beauty.