Words by Thomas-Bradey Riseley
(sorry for the wait, the three of you that read my blog, I haven’t even been busy I’ve just been dealing with a lot. take this as my way of saying things are getting better. also this isn’t becoming a radiohead blog I promise).
Yes, I know. I’m a bit late on this one. I forgot it’s been 5 years since the last Radiohead record in all honesty. A recent relisten and purchase of the Record Store Day version of it inspired me to put digital pen to digital paper again.
On the 8th of May 2016 Radiohead released their ninth album, A Moon Shaped Pool. I am an unapologetic Radiohead superfan (if you couldn’t already tell) and it is with no shame that I declare AMSP one of the best the boys have ever made. The band, for the 9th time, take another different musical direction and strike gold. The album heavily leans on Jonny Greenwood’s gorgeous string arrangements and has a subtle kraut-rock flavour sprinkled throughout. Orchestration is no stranger to a Radiohead record with it featuring on some of their most heart-wrenching songs; How To Disappear Completely, Pyramid Song, Faust Arp, Codex etc and listening to it being fully utilised is bliss. While its common mood is elegance in sombre, it serves undeniable grooves on Ful Stop, Desert Island Disc and Present Tense.
The production is some of the cleanest they’ve ever had and aesthetically it’s their most understated and prettiest album (the Daydreaming video is a beautiful short film if you don’t pay attention to Thom’s outfit) Thematically the album addresses the loss of a significant relationship, on ‘Daydreaming’ particularly, which was a reality for Yorke who had divorced ex-wife Rachel Owen the year before. On ‘Burn The Witch, Yorke reawakens his Hail To The Thief era urgency and disgust at the state of geopolitical discourse and the song seems like a warning of what is to come (and credit where its due, he was spot on).
A popular criticism of AMSP is that its “11 unreleased Radiohead songs re-recorded and put in alphabetical order”. This may be true for a few tracks but this isn’t a new process for the band. A classic Radioheady slow-burner “Nude” from 2007’s In Rainbows was a track the band had been sitting on since the Ok Computer era. AMSP’s closer True Love Waits has been a regular at live shows since 1997 and versions of it can be found on their live album ‘I Might Be Wrong’ and their Ok Computer tour documentary ‘Meeting People Is Easy’ and it is the perfect way to close this luscious record. Whenever Radiohead decide enough is enough I hope people will give this the amount of respect and admiration given to Kid A, Ok Computer and In Rainbows because it more than deserves it.
There has been nothing released from Radiohead since AMSP but that hasn’t stopped any of the members from working. Thom Yorke has released his third solo album Anima, the soundtrack to the remake of 1970’s cult-horror classic Suspiria and a bizarre remix of the band’s love-to-hate classic “Creep”. Jonny Greenwood scored Phantom Thread and There Will Be Blood as well as debuting at 2019’s BBC Proms as well as debuting his new band ‘The Smile’ at Glastonbury’s “Live at Worthy Farm” livestream this year featuring Thom and Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner. Ed O’Brien released his first solo record, the alt-rock banger ‘Earth’. The creative impetus that they still have is what keeps the anxiety of AMSP being the last Radiohead record at bay.
But if this is to be the last Radiohead album it’s a fitting way to bow out. It’s extremely rare that a band that had been together for 31 years (at the time of release) with no line-up changes or public breakups and has gone through so many overhauls of their sound can put together something that’s this consistent front to back and still sound so significant.
If this is the end, I’m ok with it.