by Marcus Gauthiér (@themarcu5)
I imagine my first real introduction to Radiohead was somewhat unusual; sure, I'd heard ‘Creep’ and I’d seen the video for ‘Karma Police’ (which scared the crap out of 12 year-old me), but neither really left a lasting impression. What really got my attention was I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings. I don't remember what exactly led me to pick it out on that November Saturday in 2001, but it was a great decision. There was a stretch of maybe three weeks after where the first track, a live version of ‘National Anthem’ completely soundtracked my existence. I was obsessed with how the music devolved over its five minutes from a tight funky groove into noisy free jazz – so much so that it took me close to a month before I listened to any other song on the EP. When I DID listen the whole way through I suddenly had a new favorite song, ‘True Love Waits’, a song that has remained my favorite Radiohead song to this day.
Admittedly, my love of Radiohead has waned a bit over the years, I loved Hail to the Thief and In Rainbows but King of Limbs just didn't grab me the same way. My personal criticism of King of Limbs seems to be shared by many Radiohead fans: it was too alien-sounding, too electronic, too maximalist. On A Moon Shaped Pool, Thom Yorke and co. seem to recognize this critique, and strive for a more stripped-down, human sound.
Now, ‘True Love Waits’ is no longer presented as the outlier of the Radiohead catalog. Instead, Radiohead crafted an album around it of songs that are in a similar vein. At its worst, Pool sounds like an album of Amnesiac castoffs (which would be career highlights for most bands), but at its best Pool is a collection of lush, emotive, and mature songs of Radiohead doing what they do best.
While Pool isn't nearly as boldly exploratory as some of Radiohead’s past work, it's good to hear one of my favorite bands back to sounding like themselves rather than knockoffs of the groups they inspired. Pool fits nicely at this point in Radiohead’s catalog and will deservedly be mentioned by many as among their favorites at the end of the year.