Radiohead
A Moon Shaped Pool


3.5
great

Review

by Tristan Jones STAFF
May 10th, 2016 | 5978 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Just the beer light to guide us

When we’re told to “reach for stars,” it isn’t with the expectation of spiralling back down to Earth. A Moon Shaped Pool contains themes of far-reaching otherworldliness, but with a mix of both self-awareness and oblivion. It’s often apathetic, with a greater-than-thou beauty that seems to fade in and out of the protagonist’s focus. It creates a sense of both introspection and indifference, which is so very, very Thom Yorke. A Moon Shaped Pool sees Yorke in motivational self-conflict, with, inevitably, varying degrees of success. From opener “Burn the Witch” to closer “True Love Waits”, a general theme is one of prioritization, and the relevant success/failure tandem. “Burn the Witch” is a case where the bombast of the message is more important than the execution implied; the gravity of the circumstance is trivialized a bit by the bouncy, orchestral arrangements and Yorke’s lofty delivery. “True Love Waits” is much the opposite, with stripped-down instrumentation, and a remorseful approach; the genuineness of the message is everything, as is the direness in execution. Throughout its runtime, A Moon Shaped Pool wanders between priorities, but seems to retrace to the same spot in the sky.

Early highlight “Daydreaming” is both a lament and stark compliance. Yorke sings, “dreamers, they never learn / beyond the point of no return,” with a hopeless, skyward vibrato, while the production suits what will be an ongoing theme of galactic ambience. Cleverly, the tone shifts in warmth to a sort of nerve-stapled acceptance as the instrumentation drowns out the demented vocal excerpts. It’s bizarrely evocative, emotional in its lack of conveyed emotion - a balance Yorke tackles with often mixed success. “Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief” (oof) is similar-ish in this sense, but less compelling, with the most engaging moments not being Radiohead, but the London Contemporary Orchestra on string duty. When Yorke insists, “all you have to do is say ‘yes’ ,” he resembles a pseudo-spritual guru trying to sway a friend into taking a leap, testing the waters of drugs or sex or whathaveyou, but Yorke mostly sounds bored. Few vocalists can pull off "whimsically bored” quite like Yorke, and perhaps fewer can accommodate this better than producer Nigel Godrich. “Desert Island Disk” encompasses lazy stargazing, and would be nothing if not for Godrich’s cosmic sprinkle. Drummer Philip Selway doesn’t get much juice on A Moon Shaped Pool, either; feverish head-bobber “Ful Stop” remedies this, with an infectiously gradual momentum, addictive bass, quirky vocal delivery, and humorously spiteful themes.

“True Love Waits” is an unexpected high point, and probably shouldn’t be. The regretful, longing vocals and piano formula has been done exhaustively, but it has a very grounded, planning-for-failure flavour that develops into the most powerful moment on A Moon Shaped Pool. The way Thom insists, “don’t leave,” carries the sentiment of someone who’s known the response for years in advance, as though he’s exhausted his partner’s patience irreparably, and is compensating pointlessly after they’re already out the door and well beyond earshot. Lines like, “I’ll drown my beliefs / to have your babies,” are those of desperation, as one willing to cast aside everything they stand for beyond the scope of parenthood for what could prove to be marital appeasement, and unlikely to resolve anything. The emotional component of A Moon Shaped Pool is hard to pin down, which makes the frankness of “True Love Waits” more effective. In some ways, this album is comparable to Amnesiac in that it opts for wide-sweeping atmosphere as opposed to song-driven formats; A Moon Shaped Pool regularly returns to themes of space, wanderlust, and ensuing disappointment. The problem is the aesthetics aren’t always fully ingrained, and often feel like mere seasoning and spice. A song like “Identikit” shines, as it’s a more impressive track instrumentally, featuring retro-futurist synths, a catchy bass line, and a progression that lifts to the clouds before regressing into staccato guitar rhythms. It succeeds without relying on bells and whistles.

As A Moon Shaped Pool navigates through mostly-highs and occasional-lows, that spot in the sky remains in the peripherals. The album is in a recurring state of anxiety regarding the unattainable, constantly weighing pros and cons, second-guessing; at times, moving the goal posts, making the unattainable just beyond arm's reach instead of lightyears away, then letting it somehow slip even further. This is all a way of saying that Radiohead occasionally lose themselves in transience - and, there's a fine line between exploring and time-wasting. The way the tracks are arranged, particularly the final stretch prior to “True Love Waits”, hinder the momentum and immersion, as though Radiohead are watching their toes turn into prunes while you observe from the poolside. (No doubt, fans will collaborate in reworking the tracklisting to suit their own preferences.) Perhaps the deliberately alphabetical arrangement was a gentle nudge in this sense, encouraging fans to rearrange what was meant to be an indeterminate album; or, maybe the mystique surrounding Radiohead leads us to give them bonus credits. Regardless of all this, A Moon Shaped Pool sees Thom Yorke gazing into his own reflection. It makes for one of Radiohead's most personal efforts, but also an elusive one. Yorke often loses himself to the point of losing others. Those able to ride in his emotional wake will be captivated - those by the curb will forget A Moon Shaped Pool like the receding tide.



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user ratings (1635)
Chart.
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyOnTheSpot
Staff Reviewer
May 9th 2016


6125 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

http://www.amoonshapedpool.com

a hundred reviews later, i've broken my don't-review-stuff-that-has-a-review rule. earned it

c/c appreciated, etc etc. plz don't be mean



check Doof and Toad's reviews as well (sry for stealing thunder)

http://www.sputnikmusic.com/review/70685/Radiohead-A-Moon-Shaped-Pool/

http://www.sputnikmusic.com/review/70684/Radiohead-A-Moon-Shaped-Pool/

ArsMoriendi
May 9th 2016


20988 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

You bastard! I wrote 3.5 review for this and was going to post it tomorrow lol, no but seriously thanks for posting this. This album really needed a review that was under a 4.

Digging: Patti Smith - Radio Ethiopia

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Staff Reviewer
May 9th 2016


6125 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

inb4 sowing bans me as promised o~0

Ryus
May 9th 2016


14306 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

accurate rating, and i'm sure the review is great

Digging: DJ Sports - Modern Species

SnakeDelilah
May 9th 2016


19359 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

rip avg

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Staff Reviewer
May 9th 2016


6125 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

thx ryus for the high scholarly praise

ArsMoriendi
May 9th 2016


20988 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

"encouraging fans to rearrange what was mean to be an indeterminate album"



meant*



Wonderful review, I'd pos it if I could.

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Staff Reviewer
May 9th 2016


6125 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

oops, thx

DirEnRefused
May 9th 2016


3375 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

really good review man well done

Ryus
May 9th 2016


14306 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"thx ryus for the high scholarly praise"



no prob bro



real talk though the sequencing kind of ruins true love waits for me. the album kind of fizzles out in the end and true love waits just feels like a simple melody tacked on to a middle-of-the-road run of songs

DirEnRefused
May 9th 2016


3375 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

yeah i rearranged the track listing and i know others have as well



number to true love just needs a disruptive track in there to differentiate them because all four tracks are really great on their own merits and it's a shame the listing makes them merge

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
May 9th 2016


15754 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Rearranging the tracklist would help, but some of the songs do literally flow into each other which mars it a bit.



Is a comment I read earlier really true, about how they're going to reveal a different tracklist with the special edition?

Digging: Steven Wilson - To the Bone

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Staff Reviewer
May 9th 2016


6125 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

oh I might need to reword that part. i meant to say that it's good on its own merits of musicality/instrumentation and doesn't rely on bells/whistles

wwf
May 9th 2016


5350 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The last couple lines are brilliant

Digging: Dua Lipa - Dua Lipa

tommygun
May 9th 2016


26622 Comments


good stuff johnny

ABdayCandleInACircle
May 9th 2016


5 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Solid review but no mention of how great the bass is throughout. Some of these tracks become so much grooved than they would be because of it

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Staff Reviewer
May 9th 2016


6125 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I mentioned the bass at one point I think when I describe Identikit, and also compliment the groove of Ful Stop which is due in large part to the bass. it's solid throughout sure but in a couple spots moreso than others



anyway Colin is generally on point so I guess I didn't have any particular insight for him this time around. I'll try and work a lil sum'n sum'n in anyhow

Friday13th
May 9th 2016


5761 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"...as though Radiohead are watching their toes turn into prunes while you observe from the poolside"



haha right on, man.

Digging: King Crimson - Radical Action To Unseat The Hold Of Monkey Mind

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Staff Reviewer
May 9th 2016


6125 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

the quote is from an album with a number of space-themed references, as does this



the lyric "beer light to guide us" takes something inconsequential and uses it as a beacon for navigation, which sorta fits the themes of this album, and also ties heavily with my concluding paragraph. i read somewhere that the line itself came from Bowie watching the moonlight reflect off a can he was drinking from - which fits the themes of the album even more if that's the case.



and not to mention there's some Bowie influence in Radiohead's sound throughout the years; considering Bowie's recent passing, it's a fitting shoutout in a sense.

ABdayCandleInACircle
May 9th 2016


5 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

You're right I guess it just stood out to me more. He is generally on point but he pretty much transforms Decks Dark and The Numbers from decent to great racks for me. And Ful Stop is the $weete$t track



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