This is the fifth in a series of posts that look at individual tracks on Radiohead’s 2016 album A Moon Shaped Pool.
With “Ful Stop,” the brief respite that was “Desert Island Disk” is gone, replaced with a menacing swarm of guilt, counter-charge and (self-)recrimination. “You really messed up everything,” sings Yorke. “Why should I be good if you’re not?”
It’s not clear from the lyric whether Yorke’s narrator is blaming himself or his erstwhile mate for the state of things, but the music makes the weight of the emotional charge clear. Opening with a muffled drum beat sounding like a heart with arrhythmia and a bassline like an incoming jet, the song carries along at high velocity in 6/8. “Ful Stop” is the nearest thing to the oddly danceable tracks on Radiohead’s nearest album, King of Limbs—that’s a performance from that 2012 tour above where the song debuted. But you’d have to be seriously damaged to dance to this, and maybe not in a good way.
The other thing that’s interesting to me is the arc of the arrangement. Opening with purely bass and (presumably synthesized, or at least heavily treated) drums, by the time Yorke declaims that he’s “to be trapped in your ful stop” the whole band is in, Selway again having seamlessly replaced the treated drums and twin guitar lines dueling behind the repeated “truth will mess you up.” Then the guitars drop out behind Yorke’s plea to “take me back again,” replaced by strings and chorus but still powered by the driving drums and bass, before the “polite” guitar line resurfaces.
The whole thing sounds like an anxiety attack. Despite its more conventional arrangement, this is one of the more difficult songs on the album—not quite “foul tasting medicine” but not pulling any punches either.