Radiohead Burn The Glitch With String-Drenched LP9
They say never meet your heroes. A brief encounter with Jonny Greenwood earlier this year and the best I could muster was something along the lines of a pathetic “err, I think you’re amazing, you’re the reason I play guitar”.
An awkward smile, he politely let me get my snap and swiftly headed for the door. I can imagine what he might of thought - “guitar? Have you not heard my work with Penderecki?!”
It’s Greenwood’s extra-curricular schooling in modern classical that’s as crucial an influence as any to the splendor of ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’, Radiohead’s ninth studio album.
While early reviews have focused on the effect Thom Yorke’s publicised relationship breakdown may or may not have had on what’s been hailed as the band’s most open and honest work, it’s Greenwood’s arrangements which carry this pathos to new heights.
It’s the strings which evoke the nightmare to Thom’s "Daydreaming", the tidal surge of urgency in "The Numbers" and the brittle sadness to "Glass Eyes".
It helps, of course, to have such beautiful melodies to work from; Yorke happy to let his falsetto soar in widescreen rather than battle with the bleeps as in some of his solo work.
Piano passages from the aforementioned "Glass Eyes", "The Numbers" and "True Love Waits" suggest a heavy dosage of Debussy and Satie, while folky finger-picking is the order of the day for "Desert Island Disk’s" story of “different types of love” and the Latin-tinged "Present Tense".
The latter may well be the album’s finest moment. “Don’t get heavy, keep it light, keep it moving” croons Yorke as the Phil Selway led rhythm section does just that against another gorgeous melodic topline.
Radiohead’s long-time secret weapon, it’s a shame Selway is somewhat underused in places, with use of drum machines on "Burn The Witch" and "Decks Dark" reminiscent of R.E.M’s post-Bill Berry malady on their ‘Up’ LP.
Those underwhelmed by ‘The King Of Limbs’ or Yorke’s recent ‘Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes’ will be pleased to hear the laptops have been abandoned for this album, or at least the electronics are largely kept to the background. Radiohead have always sounded best at their most organic as a five-piece… or with the London Contemporary Orchestra in tow.