When I first bought “Amnesiac”, seeing the crying cartoon on the record’s cover, I figured it was a sad album and I was right. Not only did that picture depict an accurate moodiness, but the position it was crying in correlates with this record well: face hidden in shame. The insecurity and self-doubt present here are commanding themes, and help make “Amnesiac” the loneliest piece of music Radiohead ever wrote. Every song is so similar in that way it feels like the album was written, recorded, and mastered by the same person. It’s certainly a confession, but in the end seems more like a biography than anything else. And yet, somehow, its affect was lost in confusion with its cousin “Kid A”, and while the two records were intended differently, woe is life. Anyway, driving Radiohead to write and record this spectacle were the lavish genres of jazz, electronica, even a bit of shoegaze and the soothing sound of Earth’s most beautiful instrument, the piano. The music conveys both intensity and pure calm, like the transition from the nervous Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors
to the cool-headed purging of You And Whose Army?
. This album is cold and harmonious, schizophrenic and serene. It’s the most complete release by Radiohead and by that I mean every song falls into the next perfectly
, to put it simply. Each piece is utterly dependant on the others and without a single one the story wouldn’t be finished.
“Amnesiac” doesn’t rely on one central theme, lyrically or musically. It’s entirely bi-polar, and for each swift switch of instruments there is a new idea to be pondered. It is the most captivating Radiohead, and the most inclined to tell a story. “Amnesiac” carries a doleful burden, but inside its slightly cryptic lair lays the heart of Radiohead’s music: family. The album tells a tear-jerking tale about lies, desperation, delusion of grandeur and betrayal within the songwriter’s strongest familial bond, whatever it may be…friends, blood relatives, humanity, etc. They are grown men with children and wives, an obvious but well chosen theme, raw from experience. Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box
, according to the band is a song about rush hour traffic. You could look at it that way – a traffic jam is a great metaphor for the grating routine that plagues many marriages. “I’m a reasonable man, get off my case”; if only every average guy could back that up. “After years of waiting, nothing’s changed”; as his life flashed before his eyes, inching along the highway in his metal coffin to quote the late Patrick Swayze, he realized…Pyramid Song
is this man’s exploration of his own past. This is the realization strongly hinted at on the previous song. His past and what he sees as his future are laid out in front of him and he has hope that life gets better.
Some say that hope is useless, and I think that they were all once victims of logic. Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors
is that harrowing logic. There are trap doors that you can’t come back from. The frank and abrupt vocal delivery and instrumentation on this song resemble the halting power of reason. Some men would stop here for fear of dropping into an endless abyss of misery and loss, but some men are short and it goes right over their heads. You And Whose Army?
is the melancholy reflection of the fight he had with his spouse on the cathartic drive away from his prison (house). Bring them all on, the judges, the lawyers, your loyal friends…a huge wave of confidence cascades across his body as the freedom strikes him. However, soon after, the high disappears and reality sets in. I Might Be Wrong
, he thinks. The song is an apology for the foolish behavior that led him to believe his spirit was dying. What would I do if I did not have you? It’s nothing, don’t even talk about it, I was wrong, not even a thought about it. Knives Out
is his pleading for acceptance in a family he deceived; he wants her to know the man that left her left for good, and the one she married is here to stay. It’s the closest thing to a love song on the whole record, at least in the traditional sense. The whole album deals with love in every possible way it feels.
starts at the beginning of the album once again. Days, weeks, months…maybe years have passed and allowed him to feel the same way he did when he was stuck in traffic that one fateful day. The song has a very dreamy feel, as if he’s thinking all of this, not saying it – just a hopeless plea for release, lying in bed next to his biggest mistake. Dollars & Cents
marks the moment when he begins to put all of his anguish to intellectual use – philosophizing about the destructive character of humanity. The long fight between mental and physical desire – the spiritual dimension versus the jungle cluttered Earth. It’s a song that helped him understand why he wanted to escape from home so badly: because there is no solace in an unbalanced world. The physical overcame the metaphysical in an almost Neanderthal existence, and on a higher plane there are no humans who control humans. His and his wife’s controllers cater to their superficial desires like their taste buds, their genitals and their pockets. “Crack their little souls”, destroy their transcendental nature. Kill the human, but leave the body. Make them forget what they really are, like amnesiacs. Hunting Bears
, being the climax in it’s instrumental loneliness looks away from civilization in shame; staring at the windy skies, there is only one guitar…I mean there is only one thing to do. But he can’t do it. Living in this world is Like Spinning Plates,
no matter what anyone does and no matter how smart a rebellious soul becomes he will end up in the same place he started – the cycle of life. We’re all living in a Glasshouse
, afraid to challenge them, scared to throw stones because everything they allowed us to have would crumble around our feet.