Every band has a signature sound. Or do they?
In the case of Radiohead, the only consistency in its sound seems to be its inconsistency – no two of its eight previously albums have sounded the same, and the band continues in the same vein with its latest, A Moon Shaped Pool, released on May 8.
New Radiohead music has been hard to come by since 2011’s The King Of Limbs, though there was last Christmas’ free download of Spectre, the band’s James Bond theme that was passed over for Sam Smith’s vastly inferior contribution.
In the past few weeks, however, the band set its hype machine into motion in the most, well, Radiohead way possible.
It began with the mysterious erasure of the band’s Internet presence, followed by the steady trickling of information and ambiguous Instagram clips, before culminating with the release of not one, but two new songs and videos (Burn The Witch and Daydreaming) in the span of a week.
With those came the announcement that yes, there will be a new Radiohead album coming not in a month or two, but within a few DAYS.
That slow build-up of anticipation is a trick only the reclusively enigmatic band could pull off, and thankfully, the final product is just as good as we hoped it would be. No alarms and no surprises there then.
Upon initial listens, A Moon Shaped Pool is a much more accessible album compared to the more electronica-driven King Of Limbs, and a more guitar-driven hark back to the band’s past releases.
Some of the songs here are hardly new (to Radiohead fans, at least) – True Love Waits is a song that was written during Radiohead’s The Bends era, while there’s some of the haunting beauty of In Rainbows’ slower numbers in Glass Eyes (a beautiful ballad that is over way too quickly) and Present Tense.
The disarmingly dark Burn The Witch, and the haunting piano-driven Daydreaming are solid album openers, and sets the mood for an album that is at once accessible yet experimental at the same time.
Ful Stop, for instance, is a six-minute long song that takes its time to build a beat and rhythm that serve as a steady white noise, messed up only by Thom Yorke going, “You really mess up everything” almost two minutes in, before finally breaking loose gloriously at the 3:10 mark with a multi-instrumental jam.
Identikit sounds at first like a hark back to the more experimental Kid A/Amnesiac era, but blindsides you midway through by switching to a soaring second-half that has Yorke singing, repeatedly, “Broken hearts/make it rain” with a soaring guitar solo tagged at the end of it.
By the time the album ends with the ethereal True Love Waits, there is little doubt that this is a classic Radiohead album, one that sees the band digging into its past while constantly pushing the envelope and making sure its music moves on to the next logical evolution.
A Moon Shaped Pool