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Album review: Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

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★★★★

Radiohead is, in 2016, something of a unique proposition – a music act that while being woven into the very fabric of our culture, continue to evolve.

Radiohead - A Moon Shaped PoolThey have always seemed like a band in flux, constantly at odds with expectations of their art and also their own understanding of who they are. All this whilst maintaining a singular identity.

They exist in a place where they are not just expected to release albums, but make grand artistic statements.

Ninth studio album A Moon Shaped Pool certainly achieves this, not just because of the masterful marketing in the lead up to its release on Sunday, but as a complete and singular musical work.

Again, as with every release since their debut, this is Radiohead-but-different. The key elements that make up their trademark sound are present – Thom Yorke’s haunting vocals and their blend of beauty and harshness.

A Moon Shaped Pool departs from the experimental angst of 2011’s The King Of Limbs letting glimmers of light in through the dark with at times almost folky moments as displayed on ‘Desert Island Disk’.

Throughout, as with the bands best work, this is not music that grabs you immediately but slowly seeps into your consciousness and consumes you – like a wave.

This albums triumphant strings and choir vocals, best displayed on jubilant opener ‘Burn The Witch’ and new depths of sound to the aural palette that the band has been playing with since OK Computer.

And elements from their best work have all made it on to this new release – soaring walls of guitar, haunting piano, a range of glitched beats and rhythms and a constant manipulation of sound – encompassing all genres, and yet none at all.

This pillaging of their own past is best highlighted in the inclusion of ‘True Love Waits’ which has been given numerous live-outings since the mid-90s and now finally takes stunning, recorded form as the album’s closing number.

For such a wide-range of sounds it is a vast achievement that Radiohead have created something that sounds so complete. ‘Ful Stop’ is a motorik, techno stomper, ‘Identikit’ is an almost funky but desolate delight and ‘The Numbers’ is a jazzed-up near-homage to the Bends era of the band.

A common sonic ideal runs through out that makes A Moon Shaped Pool a delightful listen as a whole work and not just single tracks.

Music aside the usual cryptic lyricism, fraught with Thom Yorke’s usual pessimism and political angst, provides much to decode. On ‘The Numbers’ he sings “People Have The Power”, defiantly adding, “we’ll take back what’s ours.

After just a few days with A Moon Shaped Pool it is still revealing its wonders to me, and I think it is a release that will do so for years to come.

The only reason that this isn’t a five star album is that, from Radiohead, this level of quality is 100% expected.

Radiohead has done it again and proven why they are the greatest band of last 30 years.




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