Review: Radiohead's A Moon Shaped Pool

Thom Yorke in the video for 'Daydreaming' (Radiohead/YouTube)
Thom Yorke in the video for 'Daydreaming' (Radiohead/YouTube)

In typical Radiohead fashion, the band's latest album was released with very little warning and preceded by several years of complete silence and inactivity. Since their last full-length LP in early 2011, the band has said very little about the prospect of new music, leaving their hordes of fans searching desperately for clues. And in January this year, they found one.

Radiohead had formed a company -- an interesting development because companies had also been established a short time before the release of their two previous albums, In Rainbows and The King of Limbs. Following that, there was nothing -- no big announcement, no release date, no desperate attempt to build anticipation.

Review: Radiohead's A Moon Shaped Pool

Artwork for A Moon Shaped Pool (Radiohead)

That is until Monday last week, when a number of fans reported the band had sent them leaflets emblazoned with the phrase, 'We know where you live.'

On Tuesday Radiohead followed that by completely erasing their online identity, and then, on Wednesday, gave their most obvious indication a new album was coming with the release of the opening track on A Moon Shaped Pool, 'Burn the Witch'.

The track's more traditional instrumentation was an immediate hit with the band's loyal fanbase, much of which had been concerned the new LP would continue the glitchy electronica of The King of Limbs and Thom Yorke's 2014 solo release Tomorrow's Modern Boxes.

The flourishes of violin were an innovative and unnerving addition to the song, with the accompanying music video believed to be a thinly veiled dig at Donald Trump and his stringent anti-immigration policy.

'Burn the Witch' was quickly followed up on Saturday by 'Daydreaming'. It's an emotional ballad that feels hopeful and melancholic in equal measure, and grows on you with every listen. Yorke's simple arpeggios on the piano are wonderfully complemented with strings and layered vocals, complete with an Inception/Monsters Inc.-inspired video clip co-directed by the band.

The rest of A Moon Shaped Pool follows that single's lead -- in particular the album's sixth track 'Glass Eyes', another similarly mournful and largely piano-driven song, and 'True Love Waits', a fan favourite first performed in 1994. Yorke's longing refrain in that song, "Just don't leave, don't leave," is particularly pertinent given the end of a 23-year relationship with his partner at the end of last year.

'True Love Waits' isn't the only song that Radiohead delved into their archives to place on the album, though. 'Ful Stop', 'Identikit', 'The Numbers' and 'Present Tense' have all been reimagined on the LP to magnificent effect, with 'Identikit' a real highlight - Yorke's childish vocal arrangement juxtaposing wonderfully with Jonny Greenwood's grungy guitar riff.

However it's a new song that takes the cake as the album's best track. 'Decks Dark' starts off soft, but the breakdown at the halfway mark brings together rasping guitar, a grooving bass line and the haunting wails of what seems to be a children's choir in what can only be described as a moment of pure bliss, easily on par with the band's best-ever work.

While the record has a handful of less-inspired tracks, most notably 'Desert Island Disk' and 'Ful Stop', the recycling of old songs from the band's recent and ancient history adds so much to A Moon Shaped Pool.

To Radiohead's diehard supporters the album will have a wonderful sense of familiarity about it, seamlessly bringing together the best elements of their alt-rock, electronic and atmospheric personas into one cohesive record.

It may have been five years since their last LP, but it was well worth the wait.