Rock

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Iain Shed­den

A Moon Shaped Pool Ra­dio­head Re­mote Con­trol There are mo­ments on A Moon Shaped Pool that are noth­ing short of ter­ri­fy­ing. Take the open­ing track, Burn the Witch, a song that has been knock­ing around Ra­dio­head re­hearsals and record­ing ses­sions for 17 years. Leave aside singer Thom Yorke’s typ­i­cally eerie falsetto and a lyric that, in its gloomy vi­sion of a so­ci­ety cor­rupted by evil (“avoid all eye con­tact / do not re­act”), is chill­ing. The clincher comes in the screech­ing men­ace of the strings, played with great gusto by the Lon­don Con­tem­po­rary Orches­tra, that sit high and mighty along­side Yorke, driv­ing the song at a re­lent­less pace to a thrilling cli­max. Then comes Day­dream­ing, on the sur­face a pi­ano bal­lad with Yorke at his most mo­rose (”we’re at the point of no re­turn”), but what sud­denly makes you want your mum are the seem­ingly dis­con­nected tunes float­ing around un­der­neath — frac­tured, back­ward loops, del­i­cate synth mo­tifs, twisted har­monies and, most of all, a kind of deep, dis­turb­ing wail that has to be com­ing from some­where un­der the stairs.

This is one of the great strengths of Ra­dio­head’s fol­low-up to 2011’s The King of Limbs. There are plenty of the band’s fa­mil­iar strains — Jonny Green­wood’s del­i­cate, in­tri­cate gui­tar melodies, the in­tensely mu­si­cal rhythm sec­tion and Yorke’s un­nerv­ingly de­mand­ing voice. What the band has taken to an­other level is the filmic qual­ity of the mu­sic, a shift in­flu­enced no doubt by Green­wood’s sec­ond ca­reer as a film com­poser ( There Will Be Blood, In­her­ent Vice). A band that likes to ex­per­i­ment and cre­ate in the stu­dio has taken that modus operandi into new ter­rain here, aided once again by pro­ducer Nigel Go­drich. It takes sev­eral lis­tens to fully ap­pre­ci­ate how much is go­ing on. This un­der­cur­rent cre­ates a mood, a mesh that makes A Moon Shaped Pool whole, yet each song stands tall on its own. The per­vad­ing gloomy sen­ti­ments, which seem to cen­tre on the state of the planet, are matched by mu­sic that is joy­ous and ad­ven­tur­ous: angst pit­ted against care­fully crafted dy­nam­ics.

High­lights in­clude Desert Is­land Disk, with its vaguely Span­ish acous­tic gui­tar in­tro­duc­ing Yorke in folkie mode. “Dif­fer­ent types of love are pos­si­ble,” he sings, and then it’s gone. Ful Stop is a sin­is­ter sonic as­sault of bass, drums and synths form­ing a bed for Yorke’s aching falsetto. It is haunt­ingly beau­ti­ful. So too is the short bal­lad Glass Eyes, where Yorke’s com­pelling, weary vo­cal off­sets the ro­man­tic pi­ano and strings. The Num­bers has the feel of a 70s rock band jam, while Present Tense is an al­most poppy shuf­fle. “I’m not liv­ing, I’m just killing time,” Yorke sings on the stark closer, True Love Waits. Not much room for op­ti­mism in his world view, then, but once again he and his col­leagues have cre­ated a com­plex, af­fect­ing, orig­i­nal work of art that is wor­thy of praise and cel­e­bra­tion. Twenty-five years into its ca­reer, Ra­dio­head can alarm and sur­prise — and be a lit­tle scary.

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