Good news Radiohead fans. Your favourite band may be slowing down - the five year gap between new album A Moon Shaped Pool and previous King of Limbs is the longest in their career - but the music remains captivating. And just as anxious and as heartbreaking too.

Yes, that yawning gap has been well filled with side projects by the group's principals, singer Thom Yorke and guitarist (and frequent soundtrack composer) Jonny Greenwood. Even drummer Phil Selway has released a solo album or two.

But now Oxford's famous five - possibly the only rock band who can cause excitement by dropping an album out of the ether - have reconvened for a record that feels like one of their gentlest and most melancholy in some time.

Absent is the guitar scorch of the band's last great rock album, 2007's In Rainbows, or the rhythmic clatter of 2011's lesser King of Limbs.


But while AMSP is frequently sonically intriguing, it's no leap into the unknown. It's an album where the songs aren't afraid to do time-honoured song things and the melodies are to the forefront on arrangements that mix digital detailing - mostly on its voices which range from spectral whispers to grand choral touches - with conventional instrumentation. Though not a lot of electric guitars.

There's ye olde fashioned pastoral acoustic guitars, though behind Desert Island Disk and The Numbers which comes with slight echoes of Led Zeppelin's Kashmir.

There are swirling strings and piano beneath Glass Eyes and Thom Yorke's curiously personal vocal ("Hey it's me, I just got off the train ..." ); ditto Yorke as trademark damaged choirboy on the gorgeous closing True Love Waits, a revival of a song previously only released on a live collection and which dates back to the band's early days of 1995.

Likewise, Identikit has a few miles on it. It was in the setlist for the band's Auckland show during the King of Limbs tour in 2012.

AMSP starts all Psycho-meets-Eleanor-Rigby rampant strings and groaning synths on Burn the Witch an early warning of the baroque, quietly psychedelic touches to come.

Sometimes it's heading into dubby territory on Identikit, it breaks out the bossanova they've employed before on Present Tense and gets as close to the experimentations of the band's Kid A left turn on Tinker Tailer Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief, albeit with yet another beautiful string arrangement.

But there's an air of restraint hanging over this that, for all its melodic incandescence, makes AMSP a little unsatisfying. Case in point, Ful Stop and its pulsating Krautrock hum, which starts off sounding like it's at the end of a very long tunnel only to sweep past as a soul-rock explosion but then to sweep underground once more, all too soon.

It's an intriguing, often beautiful, album. But it's also one that doesn't quite grip in a way their best albums have.

Review: Radiohead, A Moon Shaped Pool


Not their best work but strangely lovely in is own way