The Dichotomy in 'A Moon Shaped Pool'.
Posted Thursday, January 18th, 2018
Just to preface this review: I'm not a Radiohead “fanboy”, I've only recently started to enjoy Radiohead as I've only recently given them a fair chance in my expansive query of albums to listen to (*gasp* I know! Such sinful words from a self-proposed music writer).
Mark my words, 'A Moon Shaped Pool' is an album unlike any other, and even unlike any other Radiohead album I've ever heard. There are definitely those subconscious Radiohead-esque nuances that appears in all of their albums, but A Moon Shaped Pool seems to subdue those nuances even more, making something truly different, even for Radiohead. Every subsequent song is like a wave, you're expecting it to come, but every time it does, it still surprises you, just without the trashing about. Take the experimentalism of 'OK Computer' and combine it with the masterful and purposeful lyricism of 'In Rainbows', and you'll get the thoughtfulness and lightness that's laced in every track in A Moon Shaped Pool.
One of the most polarizing things to me about Radiohead is how they've evolved from the 'classy' punk days of Creep, Karma Police, and Myxomatosis. (Okay, maybe 'classy' isn't the best descriptor for 'Myxomatosis', but you still understand my point.) They've inadvertently created a deep dichotomy in their album, but unlike most dichotomies, this one is pleasing to the ear. They've shed their natural and real drums for more synthetic and sharp drums, traded their guitars for synthesis and ambiance, but kept Thom Yorke's raw vocals and the trademark Radiohead masked meanings. To most, these changes reflect the maturity of Radiohead and their versatility. However, to others, these changes stray away from their preconceived notions of what Radiohead meant to them: Raw, unplugged power with the jagged production style that mixes with uncensored entendre and a bobbing and weaving composition that only leaves you with whiplash by the end of the track. I disagree with this motion, mostly due to the fact that it isn't Radiohead's fault that you made a guess on their style and direction and didn't think that maybe, just maybe, they might evolve.
…the auditory equivalent of screaming into a pillow; No one will hear your screams and sobs except for you, leaving you to release and cope.
But, as with most albums, the story line or overarching meaning of A Moon Shaped Pool is a doozy. To me, I feel as if this album is a reflection (no pun intended) of Thom's life, on his mistakes, lost opportunities, but also on his achievements, and is the auditory equivalent of screaming into a pillow; No one will hear your screams and sobs except for you, leaving you to release and cope. To add some much needed context for this thesis, before the production of this album, Thom separated 'amicably' from his wife of 23 years, Rachel Owen, who then died of cancer in December of 2016, just a few months after 'A Moon Shaped Pool' was released. That alone could be a reason for some of the bitter and lonely-sounding tracks. Overall, the lyrics and composition projects a strong feeling of grief and anxiety, along with a subtle but deep anger that pierces like a cut. The production reflects this as well, with each track being a cacophony of sounds where most end in a bumbling crescendo, and others deciding to be light and dreamy, like 'Daydreaming' and 'Glass Eyes'.
Each and every single track flows like a river into one another, leaving you no time to catch your breath as you get swept into the tide and trapped into the roller-coaster that is Thom Yorke tearing into his deepest experiences and feelings and lays them all out for examination. That, in of itself, is brave. Not many artists are that willing to open their hearts fully to the public, let alone write an album dedicated to showcasing their feelings, and it's a much needed release from more mediocre albums released in the last few years. Radiohead never ceases to amaze me with their constant evolution, giving a giant middle finger to sticking to a style and formulaic compositions designed only to please the ear and not challenge the mind, along with always pushing the boundaries of modern music to its limits, leaving no survivors in their wake, and letting no one tell them what to do or, more rather, what to not do, and that's a bold and refreshing quality in a band.