I satisfied myself lately that A Moon Formed Pool is Radiohead’s final album. It was deep in quarantine, and my listening habits had grown more and more gnarled. The info didn't help my case. “I fucking hope not,” Thom Yorke said flatly in 2017 to such suspicions. As lately as final spring, guitarist Ed O’Brien said the band had been in dialogue about follow-up periods, however at no rush.

Radiohead's A Moon Formed Pool, 2016.Courtesy of Thom Yorke and Stanley Donwood / XL

And but there’s one thing overwhelmingly last concerning the band’s ninth album, launched a half-decade in the past subsequent month. Its particular person songs sounded, instantly, like among the finest the band had ever dedicated to tape, however to what finish? They convey exhaustion, the kind of transparency that comes whenever you’ve bought nothing left to present, no secrets and techniques left in retailer. Seven of the 11 songs had been kicking round for years, typically for many years. They’re organized in alphabetical order, as if to exhale, “Listed here are the songs this band has made,” forgoing another narrative cohesion. The nearer — the band’s 100th album song — is “True Love Waits,” a storied reside favourite that dates back to 1995. After Radiohead tried to report it for a number of earlier LPs, it’s breathed into being amidst a swirl of fading, Caretaker-esque piano glissandos. Yorke’s lyrics pair reminiscences of “your loopy kitten smile” with a refrain that pleads and soars in equal measure: “Simply / Don’t go away / Don’t go away.” An argument might be made that the tune’s crystallization right here is purpose sufficient for the album to exist.

However Radiohead followers not often cease at an affordable argument. Supercharged off twenty years of stressed reinvention and statement-making, they're one of the conspiracy-prone fandoms on the trendy web, which is saying one thing. Nearly each album within the discography sits atop a submerged pyramid of b-sides, alternate cuts, and reside reconfigurations that counsel vastly completely different variations of the albums we ended up with. Lyrics seem like wormholes by means of time: references to 2016’s “Burn The Witch” pop up in the liner notes to 2003’s Hail To The Thief. These threads get carried to unusual conclusions. A vast numerological argument means that OK Laptop and In Rainbows are literally companion albums, supposed to be listened to interlaced. For some time, within the early ‘00s, the “Kid 17” experience demanded two variations of Child A be performed precisely 17 seconds aside, revealing a kind of galaxy-brain syncopation within the album’s DNA. We attempt to not discuss the two-month period throughout which followers scoured transport manifests for proof of a never-to-arrive sequel to The King Of Limbs.

Maybe for this reason I heard in A Moon Formed Pool some secret goodbye: there aren't any actual alternate variations of it floating round, no grand narrative intrigue, and so actually, I surmised, I have to be lacking one thing. It's an album of endpoints, of songs introduced dwelling finally. At first hear in 2016, it felt just like the band lastly downshifting, throwing off the mantle of The Final Nice Rock Band and releasing one thing decidedly non-conceptual, virtually utilitarian. However orienting round that sense of finality has helped me get my hooks on this unusual assortment of terrariums, stuffed with blooming beats and gull-like strings. The tracks, constructing on the in-studio building of The King Of Limbs, remodel by means of the manufacturing, like Greenwood’s string preparations punctuating Yorke’s climate-rebellion anthem “The Numbers,” or the gradual introduction of a slinky groove on the exhaustingly titled “Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Wealthy Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief.”

Definitely, A Moon Formed Pool’s sense of finality has different sources. A lot has been made concerning the impression of Yorke’s separation from Rachel Owen, his associate of 23 years and the mom of his youngsters, in the course of the album’s manufacturing. (She died of most cancers seven months after its launch.) Lyrics handle love as one thing inherently unsustainable: “I really feel this like to the core,” Yorke sings on the shut of “Glass Eyes,” earlier than echoing it with, “I really feel this love flip chilly.” On “Current Tense,” which appears in any other case to handle a kind of psychological armor in opposition to on a regular basis anxiousness, the refrain ruptures, “In you, I’m misplaced” — a pledge of fealty and a harbinger of rise up in a single. However Radiohead lyrics have all the time had a manner of slipping voice. The second individual can really feel like a lover, like an viewers, like Yorke speaking to himself; it may be the voice of authority, of the media, of a revolutionary. On this manner the songs can imply what you need them to, whoever “you” could also be. One individual’s breakup tune is one other’s disappearing act.

Nowhere is that this clearer than within the Paul Thomas Anderson-directed video for “Daydreaming,” which on first viewing seems of a bit with Anderson’s later movies for Haim — singer walks by means of a contemporary setting — however yields deranged intrigue to the wormhole-inclined. It’s actual Room 237-style stuff, stuffed with numerological references to motherhood, backwards messages, cryptic nods towards older Radiohead movies and songs. (Even Yorke’s wardrobe, by the designer Rick Owens, is woven into the idea: his title is simply too much like Yorke’s ex to disclaim.) Yorke’s lyrics, too, appear to conflate his breakup with the lifetime of the band, referring to the damned craving of dreamers, earlier than concluding, wryly, “We're simply joyful to serve you.” The burden of 23 years is palpable within the tune. On the video’s conclusion, the 47-year-old seems within the fetal place earlier than a fading hearth, murmuring “Half my life / Half my love.” That is both a reference to his relationship or his time within the band, or, extra seemingly, each. Both manner, he walks by means of precisely 23 doorways within the video.

Wealthy because the tune and video are for theorizing, they nonetheless counsel exhaustion. It’s the one Radiohead album that factors backward by means of time, suggesting no grand plans or alternate paths. A Moon Formed Pool doesn’t lack an idea: its idea is the top of Radiohead. For a band outlined by relentless ahead propulsion, I’ve come to see this as its personal kind of evolution. O’Brien has referred to the album because the shut of a chapter begun with Child A, saying that regardless of the band does subsequent would be the manifestation of a brand new inventive chemistry. However as all the time with Radiohead, that’s not fairly as miserable because it appears. The blooming ecosystem of every tune’s sonic building suggests not an ending, however a tender transformation: a household unit taking new form, a inventive impulse charting a brand new tributary, a string part step by step rising from the beat. A half-decade on, the album deserves a popularity alongside Amnesiac as one of many band’s most elusive — and transfixing. Put it on once more: It shimmers gently, nonetheless, like a mirrored image in water.


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