Radiohead's A Moon Shaped Pool: What You Need To Know
Radiohead's ninth studio album – and their first since 2011's King of Limbs – has been doing the rounds online since May, but this week you'll finally be able to get your hands on a physical copy of the latest full-length offering from the Oxford five-piece. A Moon Shaped Pool arrives in stores today, here's everything you need to know...
A little background...
Radiohead's latest album began in rather piecemeal fashion as far back as 2012, when they began playing two new songs – 'Ful Stop' and 'Identikit' – on their King of Limbs tour, but initial hopes that a follow-up might come very quickly were soon dashed when the band went on hiatus following the tour's completion. In the years that followed, Thom Yorke and the band's producer Nigel Godrich released a second album with side project Atoms for Peace, while both Yorke and drummer Phil Selway released solo albums of their own. Guitarist Jonny Greenwood, meanwhile, has been the busiest of the bunch, creating two soundtracks for Paul Thomas Anderson films The Master and Inherent Vice, as well as composing music for live performances with the London Contemporary Orchestra.
By September 2015 though the band were finally back in the studio, working at La Fabrique in southern France, before Radiohead's return was signalled at the beginning of May when the band suddenly deleted all of their social media accounts and released the video for new song 'Burn the Witch', a sort of Trumpton meets The Wicker Man animation that's as unnerving as it is riveting.
Who's producing it?
As usual, long-time producer Nigel Godrich is the one manning the controls.
Any special guests?
The aforementioned London Contemporary Orchestra contribute strings and choir to the album, but otherwise it's pretty much just the five members, with the exception of Get The Blessing's Clive Deamer performing additional drums on 'Ful Stop'.
What does it sound like?
At various points on A Moon Shaped Pool there are audible traces of Radiohead's earlier work; the epically-titled 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Thief' has echoes of 'The Pyramid Song' about it, while opening track 'Burn the Witch' could easily have been lifted from either Kid A or Amnesiac. But where there's familiarity here, there's also plenty that feels new. Jonny Greenwood's folk-tinged acoustic guitar work at the beginning of 'Decks Dark' feels like uncharted territory for Radiohead, while tracks like 'Ful Stop' and 'Identikit' combine restless, rhythmic energy with an ethereal feel that permeates much of A Moon Shaped Pool.
Thom Yorke's lyrics are predictably gloom-laden in places, but there's a balance between melancholy and a kind of calm euphoria, emphasised by the contribution of choral vocals and strings from the London Contemporary Orchestra.
Does it deliver?
Given the slightly stop-start process of putting this album together, along with the fact that some of these songs date back many years ('True Love Waits 'and 'Burn The Witch' were originally written in 1995 and 2000 respectively), this is a remarkably cohesive piece of work. It's not groundbreaking in the same way that Kid A or even OK Computer were, but it isn't retreading old ground either and, as a body of work, A Moon Shaped Pool holds its own against Radiohead's best albums.
Their detractors may not find any reasons to change their minds here, but for Radiohead's many fans this is a typically well-crafted offering that's unlikely to disappoint.