Radiohead, A Moon Shaped Pool
XL Records 2016
In 1985, Yorke met two of his future bandmates at the boys-only Abingdon School and the seeds of Radiohead were planted: Guitarist Ed O’ Brien (recruited because Yorke thought he looked like Morrissey) and bassist Colin Greenwood (recruited because he dressed weird and went to lots of parties, Yorke told RS.) Drummer Phil Selway joined soon after, and Greenwood’s younger brother Jonny rounded out the lineup, first as harmonica player, then as keyboardist and finally, as guitarist. After parting ways to attend university, the group, then named On a Friday, reconvened to record a series of demo tapes including one called Manic Hedgehog, which caught the ear of EMI in 1991 during the wave of grunge fever. The label promptly signed the group to a six-album deal but requested they changed their moniker. Thus, in 1992, On a Friday became Radiohead, named after a Talking Heads song that appeared on that band’s True Stories. – The above is from an article by Daniel Kreps on www.Rolling Stone.com
Radiohead affirms, rock is dead. The band has drifted from their lo-fi distortion days of the nineties. Now the band (together since 1985) has produced prog-folk with experimental synth and percussion in the brush strokes.
The end result? Genius. The music is difficult and rewarding. At first listen I was excited, intrigued and puzzled by the arrangement. It took me a second and third listen to really begin to enjoy the music.
The proper and complex arrangements take some study to understand. Lucky for you, I did your homework for you.
“Burn The Witch”
Burn The Witch starts the album off like a powder keg about to explode. Yorke’s lyricism is special. He parodies births of Victorian culture from 1440-1750. The song brings forth old thematic elements that have always been a part of Radiohead. However persecution is new to the song writing quiver of Thom Yorke.
“This is a low flying panic attack”
Yorke is referencing a helicopter machine gun strafe and the panic that ensues.
“Burn The Witch/Burn The Witch/We know where you live”
Yorke brings forth the political context about rebellious thought and the ‘what’ that happens to those who color outside the lines.
It is fascinating the band uses the song “Ful Stop” as their climactic centerpiece, since from a grammatical standpoint a full stop literally means the end. For instance, the end of a sentence. This song is mellow until 3:30 when the band drops the gavel and decides to go in. The percussion grabs the attention and the snappy snare and sharp sweeping hi-hat rebukes the idea that this is anything like it’s predecessor, “King Of Limbs” This song actually made me get out of my chair to check the track name. It’s truly an orchestral marvel. The way the band experiments with string instruments is truly unique. This song (actually the whole album) poses a challenge for the bands’ live performance which is a challenge they willingly accept.
Notice the next verse that features lyrics like:
“If you could take it all back again/strike up what’s in the box”
Yorke eloquently describes his marriage and divorce in these two short sentences. A fire has been lit, the whole tinderbox has been burned. You can’t put it out. In many ways a full stop for Yorke. Life boiling into a heated mess and the scorched earth policies of divorce lay at his feet. The song is a focal point of the album but also the climax which in itself is a euphemism for a life together with a spouse cut short.
“True Love Waits”
I’ll drown my beliefs to have your babies/
Yorke would change and subscribe to someone else beliefs if they would accept him
I’ll dress like a niece/And wash your swollen feet
This person that Yorke clearly loves is a godly figure to him. He would wash her swollen pregnant feet like Mary Magdalene.
Just don’t leave/Don’t Leave
This is bitterly cold to put at the end of an album “True Love waits”
Since 1995 when this was written, this song could only be heard live. It’s a mystery why Yorke saved it until now. The song is haunting and abstract. It fizzles out and you almost hear the click of the record, the noise an LP makes when it’s time for a change.
As I look through my Radiohead records and listen to them chronologically, I have to say this is hands down their most brilliant work to date. This bands’ Magnus Opus. Which begs the question: is this Radiohead’s last album? They have created a beautiful work of art. The passive aggression, self-loathing lyrics in addition to the musicianship of Jonny Greenwood has never been better. I think Radiohead has stepped into and out of the studio for the last time.
- Burn The Witch
- Decks Dark
- Desert Island Disk
- Ful Stop
- Glass Eyes
- The Numbers
- Present Tense
- Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief
- True Love Waits
- Robert Moran / @RobertCMoran_