Sunday, May 22, 2016

Radiohead : A Moon Shaped Pool - A Musical Wake Full Of Fond Remembrances And Emotional Eulogies

The latest artistry from Radiohead, "A Moon Shaped Pool" feels (to me) more like a collection of deeply heartfelt songs than a single focused album. This does not mean that it doesn't feel like a whole thing or that it isn't a cohesive project but because it does mix in some older material including True Love Waits that originated in 1995 it almost feels like a farewell of sorts. You also have Burn The Witch from the Hail to The Thief sessions, The Numbers (formerly Silent Spring) and Desert Island Disk (that both oddly have a Led Zeppelin-ish garden rock quality to it) performed live last year, Present Tense performed at the 2009 Latitude Fest and Identikit and Ful Stop performed during their 2012 tour.

The glue that holds the brand new material with the older songs is a thoroughly engrossing palette of sounds and an aesthetic that, even for Radiohead, veers so very somber and utterly introspective. It is as if we are all at a musical wake of sorts and fondly remembering passages of time with a heavy patina of loss drenched over every memory. Some writers are wondering if this album is Radiohead's final farewell, others including myself have the feeling that this dark and sad tone has more to do with the fact that Thom Yorke and his wife / partner Rachel Owen of 23 years separated last year. This, of course could be me projecting but nonetheless I haven't heard Thom sound quite this emotionally bare.

Daydreaming built on one sad piano line that stair steps downward with an occasional rise. Every second is deeply emotional. Yorke who more often than not comes up with lyrics that feel from another planet actually utters common phrases like "point of no return" and "the damage is done" but massages the words in such a way that they hold his own original emotional weight. The sounds push and pull and the feeling is desperate and forlorn until the build up succumbs to electronic sounding snores.

Deck Darks feels like it could be tied to Ok Computer. It has that proggy 90's post rock tone. A beautiful almost foggy beginning with spartan piano giving away to full on awe. Lyrically it almost feels like a wide world alien abduction. Beautiful bass work throughout with a wonderfully controlled tone on the many guitar sounds.

Glass Eyes feels very much like an orchestrated inner conversation and could grace an emotional stage play. With lush piano and swelling strings evoking loss, sadness and uncertainty.

Ful Stop has always felt Kraftwerk-esque gone beserk. The droning sounds and endless beat and Thom's words can invade your head and put you in a trance if you let it. When it jams it feels so relentless.

Identikit plays like a stream of consciousness, heavy on bass, percussion and guitar work that is so compelling. The big swell of sounds and opposing voices is so dramatic. The sense of emptiness inherent in humankind which is an ongoing theme in Radiohead songs is heavy here.

As a complete piece of work, A Moon Shaped Pool feels part opera, part smoky rock (jazz) fusion club and part camp fire songs. Tinker Tailor Soldier Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief with dashes of abstract textures, dream like sense of paranoia takes your head into a dozen places (at least). It can feel scarily bloated too. You go from this mysterious fluidly large tone to the final track True Love Waits and you run from crazily askew to starkly real.

I have always deeply loved True Love Waits over the years but this version here is a total devastating heart breaker. The piano lines feel lost and looking for each other while the same time clumsily stepping on each other's feet. The cadence feels lost too. Thom stretches out the phrasings as if each line is a mournful plea. When he passionately asks "Just Don't Leave" and the piano ends with it's sustain, the pain is as real as the answer.

In the end, A Moon Shaped Pool might just be that. A stunning end to something remarkable. Only time will tell.

Robb Donker

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