Has there ever been a band with as much hullabaloo around them as Radiohead? Yes. There goes the first hack at an introduction sentence. How about this? Has there ever been a band with as much deserved
hullabaloo around them as Radiohead? Possibly not. The band perpetually shocks the world and revolutionizes music with each album they put out, starting with their acoustic rock standard The Bends
. Then the massively discussed and argued about OK Computer
, being as it's Radiohead's opus and what not. Following that album, Radiohead puts out Kid A
, ends guitar-use in their music, ices the world over with their paranoia techno album, and Radiohead is the critic's darling. It's an arguable point that Radiohead can be put in the same class as The Beatles as in you can start pub fights over which album is their best. It's usually the three I mentioned before, and Hail To The Thief
, because Hail To The Thief
combines, if at times unsuccessfully, the sounds of the other three combined. But there's one album always, almost criminally, is left out of the barroom brawling fun. Spawned from the tumultuous Kid A
is Radiohead's other techno album, the one that works in the same way as Kid A
, only without the storyline and flow. The band promised Amnesiac
would be filled with guitars and see the band return to the poppier side of things. Well that's bull***. Amnesiac
is the weirder of the two Radiohead techno albums, except this one is jacked with piano, and though guitars pop up in this album, they aren't exactly focal points. In fact, a guitar doesn't even pop up until the fourth track. The similarities in the two albums are striking, but rest assured, this is no "Kid B".
's ghostly ambience music is rarely found in pop today. It is the continuation of Radiohead's "*** pop" phase, and throughout the album, you get the feeling vocalist Thom Yorke is on the verge of snapping. His lyrics border insane, but like the greatest poems, strike the hardest due to genius flow. Lines like "I jumped in the river, what did I see? Black eyed angels swam with me," and "We are going to crack you're little souls" reek with the paranoia Yorke publicly suffers from. The greatest lyricists in history all have had deep inner turmoil. Ian Curtis, Kurt Cobain, Edgar Allen Poe, all capable of grasping their inner demons and putting them on display in glass cases for the world to scrutinize. Thom Yorke is the survivor of this elite class. Barely. The feeling of being encased and observed like an animal in a zoo has always been a focal point for the band, and on Amnesiac
, this disturbing feeling is only flashed with neon signs. During the choppy flow of Amnesiac
's eleven pieces, the band seems to have finally reached their breaking point, like on the grand crescendo Life In A Glasshouse
, Yorke sneers "Well of course I'd like to sit around and chat, but someone's listening in." Yikes. Nasty little one-liners like these make Radiohead so intensely beloved, but the thing is, they have a just as intense meaning. The album OK Computer
were pieces dealing with the fear of a computer takeover of our world. Kid A
is the panicked aftermath of the takeover. Thus, Amnesiac
is this apocalyptic personal standpoint of Yorke in his own head. Through scary witticisms, Yorke, like a bad after school special about teen pregnancy, preaches "Don't let this happen to you".
So, you could say, Amnesiac
was made by madmen. Well, I'd agree with you there, if I were a novice to Radiohead's intricacies and hush-anthems. Of course, we'd both be wrong as any respectable music fan would tell us. While the lyrics seep with dark purposes and doomsday visions of the future, the toons themselves are darker. Throughout the album, you get the feeling of someone creeping around your house, with nasty electronics pouring out through the speakers. The opening track, Packt Like Sardines In A Crushed Tin Box
's electric nightmare feel draws the listener in and hooks them for a four minute period of "I don't know what's happening". Yorke, the ringleader in this bizarre circus, deadpans "I'm a reasonable man, get off my case," as computer-generated effects and sounds have spasms similar to those of a fly trapped within a spider's web. It's a blunt description, but it is what it is. The mesmerizing thing is, most of the album works in this way. Delicate techno and frozen piano's work Amnesiac
to induce the effect Radiohead undoubtedly went for when putting out the album. Guitarists Johnny Greenwood and Ed O' Brien, when their guitars pop up, are only there for the ambience they produce. In You and Whose Army?
, the band is barely there for the first two minutes, except for Greenwood's unflinching strumming. Then in a haunting bridge, the band blows Amnesiac
open with a piano-pounding anthemic moment. While Yorke cries out "We ride tonight: ghost horses", the listener obtains a feeling Radiohead puts in at least once in each album. You know, the one where you lose your senses and get enveloped in a euphoric state. Previous albums used guitar and fuzz to get it done, like on OK Computer
's massive "Exit Music", but this time, piano and a plentiful supply of crash cymbals make the experience just as enjoyable. At this point, the dedicated fan knows Amnesiac
is no garbage dump for Kid A
Now wait just a gosh darn minute, here. There's no way this Kid A
partner album can be as good as its brother, can it? Well dear reader, the answer there is no, it cannot. But Amnesiac
comes damn close. It goes forth where Kid A
fell back, and it freezes where Kid A
burned. There's a good deal more piano in the album then just the aforementioned You And Whose Army?
. In fact there are even piano-driven tracks. Pyramid Song
works with sweet ascending chords and sweeping violins, i.e. "How To Disappear Completely", putting the listener underwater in a panicked moment of drowning. And these were my thoughts before I saw the video. Yorke knows how to work this underwater feel to a striking level of potency, as he sighs over everything "Jumped in the river... All my lovers were there with me, all my past and futures, and we all went to heaven in a little row boat." Damn, that's got some zip to it. Rarely on Kid A
were lyrics this personal and this hard-hitting (though the extrospective zingers were also as poetic). Amnesiac
just seems to be Yorke's place for scribbling out tortured thoughts, and the listener is dragged along with them, enveloped with this man of quivering bottom lip and Luciferian tenor. The band works so well with him to, as they put either the solid ambience needed to accompany Yorke's pain, or a massive contrast to make satirical pieces hit all the harder. In I Might Be Wrong
, Jonny Greenwood plays a hypnotizingly catchy guitar hook throughout the song, all while Yorke mumbles "Let's go down the waterfall, have ourselves a good time, it's nothing at all." The way Greenwood Jr. (His older brother Colin plays the bass) works the electronics and puts mismatched six-string arrangements together puts him in a class Johnny Buckland only wishes he could be in.
Sounds like this dark collection is perfect for your slightly off-the-beaten track mind? It probably is. Unfortunately, Amnesiac
just has something missing that the holy trinity before it never failed to have. The one difference I failed to mention between Kid A
is perhaps the biggest one: Amnesiac
doesn't flow. At times, its garbled mannerisms and its similar musical feel to its predecessor get tedious to listen to, and Amnesiac
does put in some annoyingly same feeling songs in it. The Morning Bell/Amnesiac
rehashing of Kid A
's 10/8 mesmerizer loses the biting running man feel by using instead of percussion, jangly keyboards and scratchy guitar. It's almost completely skippable if it weren't for Yorke's classic "Where'd You Park The Car?". Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors
is simply Kid A
's title track minus the good. Hunting Bears
strives to be a "Treefingers"- like track only with guitar, but instead comes out sounding like random riffs and bass. Those three copies from Amnesiac
's brother, and the fact that Like Spinning Plates
is basically just "I Will" of Hail To the Thief
played in reverse, makes one wonder if Amnesiac
is just a conglomerate of it's sandwich family. Thankfully that isn't the case completely (and a good thing too, because the image of that sentence was an odd one), and though Amnesiac
does steal the lesser parts of it's other albums, there's enough good on it to make it a worthy Radiohead album.
Ahh, and we finally come to the ever-burning question people who read reviews seek the answer to. Should you buy this? The answer is one that is cause for pause. If you haven't gotten a Radiohead album in your life, don't get this one. The ambience filled diddies and airy tracks can be intimidating to the first time listener. But if you are into Radiohead, and particularly enjoyed Kid A
, then the recommendation is given. Thom Yorke's signature warble and some brilliant Radiohead-ish songs are present throughout the album, even though there's some dirt to dig through to get the good ones. But the way Radiohead works in different styles, even if for one or two tracks, makes for an entertaining listen, to say the least. They always fit an unexpected style into every one of their albums, and on Amnesiac
, it's no different. Check out the jazzy finale, Life In A Glasshouse
. Listen to the chaos as the horn and clarinet solo, completely indifferent to the other, all over Yorke's steadfast piano and his paranoid whisper "Once again we are hungry for a lynching. That's a strange mistake to make." Nice. Unfortunately, a lot of it sounds too much like Kid A
and some musical ideas are ripped off altogether. If you were to follow Morning Bell
's advice and "Cut the kids in half", you may initially find Amnesiac
to be the lesser of the two kids, but with patience, the crafty twin of Kid A
may prove to be the child you love more.
God what a horrid analogy...
You And Whose Army?
I Might Be Wrong
Life In A Glass House
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