Radiohead
Amnesiac


4.0
excellent

Review

by Adam Downer STAFF
April 26th, 2006 | 1878 replies


Release Date: 2001 | Tracklist


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 sessions, Amnesiac 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".

Amnesiac'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's remains.

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 and Amnesiac 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...

Recommended Tracks

Pyramid Song
You And Whose Army?
I Might Be Wrong
Life In A Glass House


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user ratings (3290)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Two-Headed Boy
April 26th 2006


4527 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Woo-Hoo! MusicOfficial's 39th review! Yeah!

Amazing review. Like the album, it's different but genius at the same time. Plus it's fun to read/hear.

Two-Headed Boy
April 26th 2006


4527 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I can safely say you're my favorite reviewer on here. Cheers!This Message Edited On 04.26.06

BringHomeTheBacon
April 26th 2006


248 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review, except I can see this part, "The Beatles as in you can start pub fights over which album is their best," was ripped off from Iai's White Album review.

This is an underrated album. Radiohead's third best album in my opinion (behind OK Computer and Kid A). All great songs except Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors and Hunting Bears. Pyramid Song, Packt like Sardines..., Life in A Glasshouse are all some of Radiohead's best.

StaticSynth
April 26th 2006


16 Comments


xxxxxxx

insanepunkguy
April 26th 2006


5 Comments


nice revue except for two points:
one, you didnt even mention knives out, one of, if not the, best songs on the album!!
two, you say "Like Spinning Plates is basically just "I Will" of Hail To the Thief played in reverse", surely its the other way around considering like spinning plates was written years before I will...

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
April 26th 2006


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yeah but the words from I Will are backwards at the beginning.

Thanks AV8RS, glad for the props!

Digging: Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

StaticSynth
April 26th 2006


16 Comments


You're doing Like Spinning Plates a grave injustice by saying it is just I Will played in reverse. It is only based-off of I Will in reverse. If you play I Will (off HTTT) in reverse it sounds barely anything like LSP.This Message Edited On 04.26.06

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
April 26th 2006


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Sorry man, but I do believe it's true. I know I read it somewhere....

Zebra
Moderator
April 26th 2006


2647 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This really was an excellent review however I disagree with this statement: [quote=review]Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors is simply Kid A's title track minus the good.[/quote] That's probably one of my favorite songs off the album. This is my favorite Radiohead cd, I love every track and seem to like the odd ones such as Hunting Bears and Like Spinning Plates more then anything.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
April 26th 2006


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Heh I noticed that. But I just cant get into them. Kid A the song was a masterpiece for being garbled. P/PRD is too airy and garbled, and goes for a bit too long.

Zebra
Moderator
April 26th 2006


2647 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I think the reason why I like P/PRD so much is because it sort of sounds like an Aphex Twin song. Although it doesn't really fit well with the rest of the album it's still fun to crank the volume and let the distorted sounds play.

Zesty Mordant
April 26th 2006


1196 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Good review, though I think this is probably my least-favorite Radiohead album. It really sounds like the b-sides from Kid A thrown together onto a cd.
"Life in a Glasshouse" and "I Might Be Wrong" are excellent though.

Hatshepsut
April 26th 2006


1997 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good, good stuff. My friend is in love with this but I have yet to listen in on it. Great review Official, as usual.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
April 26th 2006


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks.

Just a side note, does anybody else hear the remnants of Motion Picture Soundtrack at the beginning of Life In A Glass House?

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
April 27th 2006


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

*bumps to find out answer to question*

ktstein
April 27th 2006


438 Comments


Yes...its quiet...but yes

Two-Headed Boy
April 27th 2006


4527 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Excuse me?

Neoteric
April 27th 2006


3243 Comments


Wow MusicOfficial, you really kick my ass at reviewing. Great review but I still don't see why you can't summarise an album in 800 words. Short doesn't mean bad. But still the amount of detail is great.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
April 27th 2006


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Short, for me, makes a review inadequate and there hasn't been enough analyzing on my part. I feel like I haven't given it my all.

Two-Headed Boy
April 27th 2006


4527 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Of course you're recomendations would include Interpol and Joy Division :rolleyes:

Well, I guess they are spectacular bands.



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