Basement Dwelling: Radiohead /A Moon Shaped Pool


a-moon-shaped-pool-600x400Lyrical excerpts from Radiohead’s 2007 record In Rainbows:

” I don’t want to be your friend…I just wanna be your lover. No matter how it ends, no matter how it starts.”

“Reckoner, Take me with you, dedicated to all human beings.”

“You are all I need. I’m in the middle of your picture lying in the leaves.”

Lyrical excerpts from A Moon Shaped Pool:

“Dreamers…they never learn beyond the point of no return.”

“Distance is a weapon.”

“Sweet faced ones with nothing left inside that we all can love.”

“I’m not living, I’m just killing time.”

What always makes listening to a new Radiohead record a great experience is the amount of layers you have to unpack to it. Whether it’s a sonic texture you didn’t notice the first time, a lyric presentend that you didn’t quite catch the first time around from Thom Yorke’s sometimes garbled vocal delevery; there’s always something. There’s always a level of depth and greater meaning to uncover and appreciate in the form of a Radiohead record. The last time around on 2011’s ode to sampling and loops: The King Of Limbs, the band proved this in the way of a record that felt pretty bare bones and skeletal but showed how much great songwriting you can get out of studio manipulation. It felt robotic, which works in the tone of that particular record. Radiohead being masters of never making the same record twice have switched things up again, not feeling robotic this time around, oh no quite the opposite. A Moon Shaped Pool is the most undeniably human record the band has ever made. Like most records of this ilk, the reason why it is, is because it comes from a place of genuine love; A Moon Shaped Pool is a breakup record.

While listening to this record and paying attention to the details of the instrumentation and most notably the lyrics of the album i had a sneaking suspicion that what is being talked about here is what hasn’t been talked about at all in any reviews of this record or in the media in general. The fact that Thom Yorke and his girlfriend of 20+ years called an end to their relationship this past August. It adds a layer to their music, in a way that’s never been done before. Any lazy music critic can pass this record off as Radiohead making “Sad Bastard Music” but very few will know this comes from a place of genuine pain, and leads to what is the most sensual as well as personal album in Radiohead’s catalouge and gives me a deeper appreciation for what I already deemed to be a stunning work.

A Moon Shaped Pool while being it’s own entry in Radiohead’s body of work also feels like the spiritual second half to their 2007 record In Rainbows.Much like In Rainbows, Instrumentation wise it is a largley piano and string section based affair. If you’re looking for a record that has guitar hooks, you have came to the wrong place. If you’re looking for some of the finest mood music to be produced on a pop rock record in the last decade; welcome aboard, enjoy your stay. Mood is a strong element of Moon Shaped, and on varying degrees. From the stabbing paranoid sounding strings on opener “Burn the Witch” to the gently plucked acoustic guitar chords that lead into one of the most beautiful string arrangements i have ever listened to on highlight “Present Tense” this is a record that relies purely on visceral feeling that is intended to shed tears to, reflect on, or hold a loved one too. The fact that it is so memorable and instantly re playable for these reasons truly speaks to the level of craft that is demonstrated on this album. Guitarist Jonny Greenwod needs to be addressed on the subject of craftsmanship while talking about this album. As being stated as the one who did most of the “heavy lifting” in terms of the composition and arrangements of this record. If this is the case, he specifiable along with his brother Colin Greenwood’s absolute killer bass groves throughout this record make this thing a masterpiece.

The five years in between The King Of Limbs and this release has proven to be well worth the wait; especially considering the leap in quality Moon Shaped features on every level of it’s predecessor. Radiohead have come back full of vigor, life and melody that not only is a reminder of why Radiohead are so great to begin with but also continues to show that after so much history prior Radiohead still have a lot to prove. If “Distance is a weapon” like Yorke sings on “Present Tense” than this record is Radiohead shoving a dagger straight to the heart.


Daniel R. Fiorio

Writer, blogger, record collector/music fanatic, comic book junkie, jerkstore/all around nice dude from the south suburbs of Chicago

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