Saturday, December 24, 2016

Albums of the Year # 2 Radiohead

         I'm not an enormous, constant Radiohead fan for someone who has a great number of Radiohead records. I think rather a lot of people might slot into the same category. Despite their massive and important input over the last twenty five years or so of making records and playing concerts, I go towards them and then away and back towards them as my life progresses. It may always be that way. I haven't really been paying attention properly for a few years I confess. But listen through to A Moon Shaped Pool and tell me that it's not an absolutely magnificent record. Containing something of the initial simplicity that attracted me to them in the first place and something of the studied complexity they layered on this over the intervening years.

With this band the obvious sticking point, what makes them a Marmite experience, is lead man, singer and lyricist Thom Yorke. I imagine were he not there pretty much everyone would like them as the rest of the group seem deeply amiable and balanced by comparison and the music they make is almost invariably beautiful in addition to its disquieting qualities . But then without him they wouldn't be Radiohead. It's the fact that Yorke's so introverted and essentially troubled, the way his voice so often sounds somehow like nothing so much as a petulant child's whine that invariably gets peoples goats. What's he got to moan about at this point in time! I sway towards this point of view from time and it's perhaps why I need breathing space from his band from time to time. But then he and Radiohead put out a record like this and I find myself back on their orbit.

The band cover an enormous amount of ground over the course of the eleven songs here; they can do the fast forward Krautrock thing; they can do the earthy early seventies British Folk thing; they can do the much discredited, (except when they do it), prog thing: they can do the orchestrated songs for the stars and infinity thing. And they can do it all pretty much better than anybody else. They're probably the Best Band in the World if such a title means anything at all in 2016. The fact that I'm even invoking the idea is a demonstration of just how good this sounds to me. Hats off to Radiohead! They still exist in their own time and space of ever-shifting disquiet. We should be grateful really. They keep their heads, in a world where more and more people seem to be completely losing theirs.

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