Rating : 9.5/10
By Dominic J Stevenson
Radiohead’s 9th long player is a surprise release and again symbolises both the band’s imagination regarding modern strategies for presenting music to the public and just how inventive the band can manage to be over and again, and to such a high standard.
It’s a record that may stun some for just how heartfelt and sweet it is. In many parts Radiohead reveals its tenderness, whilst storms of beats, electric and acoustic guitars, brass and what seems like layer upon layer of sound circle Yorke’s epic vocals. The lyrics are profound to a point in which the listener can directly connect with some of the sentiments, not always an easy task in the past for fans of the band. It’s the Jonny Greenwood-orchestrated strings, the greater presence of piano and Yorke’s openness and vulnerability that give this an album a direct line to the heart.
The album opens with the two tracks teased out prior to the album’s surprise appearance last Sunday. ‘Burn The Witch’ and ‘Daydreaming’ are both stunning, close-to-peak Radiohead. The former is fierce, with strings that chop up the listener like giant ocean waves in a storm, it’s actually a brilliant opener whilst taking us down a road the album doesn’t go down. ‘Daydreaming’ however, shows us what this album is about. It’s cinematic, depicting someone lost in dreams, ruining the passing of some great love. The ‘half of my life’ lyric at the end is played backwards and is creepy yet breath-taking, a totally necessary bookend to end the song. Lost love weaves its way throughout the record, and it’s hard not to attach that to Yorke’s long-time relationship having ended last year.
Every song could be analysed, dissected, and aligned with the rest of the Radiohead back catalogue, but this album reinstates the importance of the ‘album’ as a single piece of music. No track here could be spared. Many have existed over the years in one form or another (see ‘Identikit’ and ‘Present Tense’ amongst others), been witnessed live and pined for by many a fan, so this is not only a fragile set but one that blossoms and blooms and gives fans what they have wanted. Let’s face it, does ANYONE have fans quite this loyal? It grows with every listen, as many a great album usually does. Keep listening, stop comparing to the previous 8 records and you will soon be submerged and totally in love with this. It’s a thing of beauty.
To pick out highlights is to try to satisfy review-hunters or to skate over the issue of what this band is capable of. It all deserves devouring, it all merits time and space and understanding of what a special act this is. From start to finish there are near endless moments to mesmerise those very fans that have waited for over 5 years, since ‘The King of Limbs’ came out. But if we have to look at it in relative terms ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ is up there with the band’s finest, which is some feat all these years on. It’s 21 years since ‘True Love Waits’ was debuted live and who could deny the band just KNEW this album was the perfect place to seat that track at the end. It does feel like the ending of something, but let’s hope that in that there is a brand new beginning for this band. It truly is the work of a once in a lifetime act that should be cherished for however long it keeps going, and then long beyond that too.