Radiohead released their ninth studio album “A Moon Shaped Pool” yesterday, and as to be expected, the reviews are already rolling in. I decided to take a different approach and journal out the first 24 hours of the album’s public existence.
I am fortuitously on my phone when the news breaks via a Facebook acquaintance that the new Radiohead album has dropped. I stop what I’m doing (read: nothing) and download the album. Through the first listen, I’m struck by how I instantly already like the album better than its predecessor, 2011’s “The King of Limbs.” That album had the jittery rhythms and falsetto warblings that I’ve come to love, but it was lacking memorable songs. This album, especially the aching “Daydreaming,” has melodies that burrow into your head and stick with you. After the closing notes of “True Love Waits,” I am confident that this a five-star masterpiece.
After working up a hunger attempting to interpret clues in lyrics and pore over Johnny Greenwood’s excellent orchestral work on “Glass Eyes,” I decide to walk to Splits & Giggles for an ice cream sundae. Along the way, I look in the faces of passersby and wonder, have they heard the new Radiohead album? What are their thoughts on how Phil Selway’s drumming patterns continue to progress with each album? How many songs do they think were influenced by Thom Yorke’s recent breakup with his partner of 23 years? Most importantly, why aren’t they asking me what I think of “A Moon Shaped Pool?”
I check Twitter to see what the rest of the general population thinks about “A Moon Shaped Pool” to better shape my own opinions about “A Moon Shaped Pool.” Most users are preoccupied with all of the old songs on the album, especially “True Love Waits.” A longtime favorite of the band and its fans, the song has been played since 1995 and was even given a spot on the “I Might Be Wrong” live recording fifteen years ago. Stripped of its acoustic guitar origins and replaced by frankly magical-sounding piano twinklings, the song remains gorgeous.
Unfortunately, I have to take a break from Radiohead to attend a comedy open mic at The Cove in York for an upcoming story. As I watch the comics, I wonder which of them is going to do a bit about Radiohead first. A gentleman named Travis approaches the mic and by the look on his face, I can already tell he has a joke about how terrifying the band looks these days or maybe how Kid A is still the best. One by one, each comic does a couple minutes of material and not one joke is told in regard to Radiohead. At one point, I could have sworn one comic said “Decks Dark,” but it ended up being an anatomy joke.
I give the album another spin on the way home and settle in for “Game of Thrones.” I was especially excited to see this new episode, especially with the return of that guy who is dead and also maybe not dead. However, all I could think about was which characters would like “A Moon Shaped Pool.” I know for a fact that Tyrion Lannister would be grooving to “Ful Stop” while doing the two others he does best, “drink and know things.” Varys would totally pretend to be too cool to be into the Radiohead frenzy, but his little birds would absolutely pass on the knowledge that “Burn The Witch” has a much deeper political meaning than what is on the surface. Of everyone in the Seven Kingdoms, I think the biggest Radiohead fan would probably be Bran Stark, for obvious reasons.
I drift off to slumber singing a song of sixpence.
I awake with a jump in the middle of the night and remember that Nigel Godrich is also producing the new Red Hot Chili Peppers album, the first that Rick Rubin hasn’t helmed since 1989. Flea is the bassist for Thom Yorke’s side group, Atoms For Peace. Could this mean that the two bands are fusing, with Godrich as the figurehead? Chilihead? Red Hot Radio Pepperheadz? I go back to sleep.
After rubbing the sleep out of my eyes and cursing the wasted hours sleeping when I could have been critically evaluating “A Moon Shaped Pool,” I zoom to my phone to check out what the real critics are saying. The New York Times said that:
“The songs thrive on their coalition, melding Mr. Yorke’s troubled words and aching melodies with Mr. Greenwood’s textural mastery and the self-effacing contributions of the rest of the band.”
Over in the band’s homeland, The Telegraph graced the band with a five star review a whole day after its release, writing:
“The quintet have a knack for locating a particular dreamy tension in the sweetness of a beautifully crafted melody, the spooky nocturnal edges evoked by off kilter atmospheric arrangements and the psychic disturbance inherent in the weirdness of Thom Yorke’s voice.”
Though I’m not sure of what that string of words even means, I agree wholeheartedly. Five stars!
With ideas buzzing around my head, I set out to finally review “A Moon Shaped Pool”… and come up blank. Somehow, in the time I took to attempt to appreciate this long-gestating piece of art, every combination of words that could be said has already been said and typed. Spiraling into doubt, I shudder thinking about the band, all patiently waiting by their individual computers to comb through reviews and thoughts about their new album. How could I live with myself knowing that my opinions on this album weren’t thrown into the internet vortex? I was left with no choice but to dutifully continue to listen to the album until I could muster valid opinions. If that ends up being too hard, I’ll probably just wait until the “Best of 2016” lists start rolling in next month.