Photo The future is dire, the past a blur and the present heartbroken yet hinting at possibilities on Radiohead’s “A Moon Shaped Pool,” its ninth studio album and perhaps its darkest statement – though the one with the band’s most pastoral surface.
This is Radiohead, whose beauty is always laced with dread; for the most part, “A Moon Shaped Pool” is an album of nightmare lullabies.
“When I see you messing me around, I don’t want to know,” Mr. Yorke sings in “Identikit,” and whether he’s thinking about personal, political or corporate betrayal – or just about the way facial features can be interchanged and messed around with in a police Identi-Kit – is unclear, even after the Beatles-tinged chorus arrives: “Broken hearts make it rain.”
In “Present Tense,” a bittersweet bossa nova akin to past Radiohead songs like “Knives Out” and “House of Cards,” Mr. Yorke sings, “As my world comes crashing down/I’ll be dancing, freaking out” and wonders, “Will all this love have been in vain?”.
“A Moon Shaped Pool” was five years in the making, a little longer than the four-year gaps between “Hail to the Thief”, “In Rainbows” and “The King of Limbs”.
In Radiohead’s music now, technology is just a tool, ubiquitous and unremarkable, not the center of attention.
The results often hark back to the late 1960s; in a way, “A Moon Shaped Pool” is Radiohead’s psych-folk album.
The album ends with “True Love Waits,” a love song Radiohead wrote in the 1990s and first recorded on a 2001 live EP, “I Might Be Wrong,” with Mr. Yorke simply strumming and singing alone, building up to the song’s pleading refrain, “Don’t leave, don’t leave.” Two decades later, its studio version testifies to what Radiohead’s patient perfectionism can achieve.