Monday, May 16, 2016
Radiohead: A Moon Shaped Pool (Release Date: 5-8-2016)
The Oxford extraterrestrials are older than the last time we saw them, with ages ranging from 44-48, and their latest gracefully embraces their ever-greying hair. Where previous Radiohead releases have jumped out of the blocks with sounds either stirringly direct or bracingly esoteric, Pool favors spacious arrangements that prefer to pull rather than push. The churning strings of opener/lead single Burn the Witch belie an album decidedly more fraught and tense than what we have on hand, a notion obliterated by song's space-case follow-up Daydreaming. There's no The National Anthem here, and no Bodysnatchers or Climbing Up the Walls for that matter; the band's latest is content to call the largely elegiac Decks Dark a rock song, precious few other tracks (Ful Stop, Identikit) even daring to bare their teeth. It's hardly a secret that guitarist Johnny Greenwood's apatite for orchestration has grown in the wake of his collaborations with film director Paul Thomas Anderson. On A Moon Shaped Pool said fascinations finally take center stage, and while it would be hard to argue that this is the best disc in the band's storied career, it's almost undoubtably their most immediately lovely.
It's also their most human since 1995's The Bends. Despite being a single from 2007's In Rainbows, I could never quite come around to the House of Cards. The song opens with lead singer Thom Yorke imploring "I don't wanna be your friend/I just wanna be your lover." The line is a tad clumsy, but over-earnestness isn't the problem so much our elemental disconnect with the author of the sentiment. Yorke has spent years telling us to suck on lemon and warning us of paranoid androids, causing this level of overt openness and vulnerability to ring false in the mouth of such a messianic madman. He doubles down on the notion here, and while much has been made in the wake of the album's release of Yorke's separation from Rachel Owen, his partner of 23 years, chalking all this up to personal heartbreak seems a bit disingenuous. The songsmith has grown more tender with age, as have the sonics of the band he fronts. Don't expect the youthful immediacy of The Bends, the eerie discontent of Hail to the Thief, the reinvigorated bombast of In Rainbows, or the paradigm-altering insanity of Kid A. A Moon Shaped Pool is an adult album by an adult band finally willing to let us behind their emotional curtain. They wear their age with acceptance, awareness, and an inspiring level of curiosity, and for those wondering what too them so long to let their guard down, long-gestating album closer reminds us, in utterly ravishing fashion, that True Love Waits.