Radiohead - Amnesiac
Released: June 4, 2001
Label: Capitol Records
Thom Yorke - Vocals/Guitars
Jonny Greenwood - Guitars
Ed O'Brien - Guitars
Colin Greenwood - Bass
Phil Selway - Drums
After Radiohead's off-the-deep-end 2000 release Kid A
, there were hints and allegations of another record coming soon, and strong suggestions of -oh my gosh- guitars
. As it turns out, the material for their quick 2001 followup, Amnesiac
, was written at the same time and place as the material of Kid A
, complete with a new version of Kid A
's "Morning Bell". People were quick to dub this album "B-sides" or the inevitable "Kid B", but Radiohead insists that this album should be considered a stand-alone record, seperate from Kid A
There are indeed guitars on this album, and they are a welcome return. However, it's Radiohead's unending inventiveness that makes the album worthwile. There are various high points on the album, including "Pyramid Song", "You and Whose Army"", and "Life in a Glasshouse", but Radiohead sacrifices a lot on the album for the sake of ambience, especially on weaker cuts like "Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors", which I could see fitting in with the rave scene. The album is alright, even pretty good, but definitely not one of their best.
Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box
Okay... if you want us to believe that this album is a seperate experience from Kid A
... why not convince us right away" Maybe with, I don't know, a guitar" Instead, this track opens with clangy percussion and sparse, pulsing drums. This is an alright track, and rather sets the tone for a majority of the album... mostly the lesser songs, though. "Packt Like Sardines", for all it's wierd spelling errors, isn't a bad track - especially given Thom's now-famous lyrics, "I'm a reasonable man/Get off my case, get off my case", which are acute in their irony and help keep the song better than average.
This is one of my absolute favorite songs - in fact, it's why I bought the album. This track begins with a piano line, accented by a quiet, scribbling, scrawling string section. Thom enters on a falsetto line, then begins a tale of swimming with "dark eyed angels" and describing what he saw, ending with "There was nothing to fear/Nothing to hide" -one of my favorite bits in the song, it has a wonderfully comforting feel. Then the band enters, with sweeping strings (arr. Jonny Greenwood) and jazzy 3/4 drums. The moments when the band enters, the song is actually made stronger, despite that it ought to fall apart. The song ends with a strong string section and haunting string-like sound effects. An awesome, well built track.
Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors
Right as "Pyramid Song" ends, we are shoved right into "Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors" - a very dissimilar track, despite making use of the sound effects that closed out the previous track. This was kind of a let down, especially being shoved between two magnificent tracks. It's mostly driven by Phil Selway and a driving beat, with strange accents throughout, notably a very altered voice of Thom Yorke - his voice is used as an instrument in this arrangement.
You and Whose Army"
Wait - is that - no way - a guitar
" Why, so it is! After about 13 minutes of waiting, we have not only a guitar, but a guitar-driven track! This is another one of the high points of the album, and with good reason. The quiet, jazz-ish guitar is complemented by a quiet Thom Yorke, singing with a sound new to his audience - subtle and smooth. The second part of this track goes from quiet guitar to sudden power, with pounding piano and much louder vocal work. However, the effects on his voice make his voice a little over-powering during this section, but the end, accented by vocal harmonies, is pleasant enough.
I Might Be Wrong
Another guitar-driven track. It's not one of the high points of the album, but not one of the low points, either.
Hey, they named the live album after it - it can't be all bad. It's a solid track, and a pretty good listen, but it's just not one of my personal favorites. It does carry the middle of the album well, though.
The guitar line here brings back memories of "Paranoid Android", but doesn't do much more. It's an alright song, but it doesn't accomplish any more than the song(s) it derives itself from. Lines like
Originally Posted by Knives Out
Don't look down
Shove it in your mouth
sung in an oddly annoying Thom Yorke whine and stuffed over repetitive guitar lines tend too irk the listener... or at least me. Overall, "Knives Out" comes off alright, and has grown a decent fan base for itself.
An interesting rehashing of "Morning Bell" from Kid A
. What other band takes a song from a previous album, redoes it, makes it a sort of title track, and then claims that the new album is not B-sides of the old album" This track is one of the points that really destroys Thom's argument that Amnesiac
isn't Kid B
After listening to this track, just try and tell me Thom Yorke isn't suffering from depression. Repetition of lines like "Where'd you park the car"", "Cut the kids in half", "Release me" and the like, accented by a pair of two-chord progressions, one dissonant, one relaxing, really play with the duality of this unusual song.
Dollars & Cents
This is a rather affecting song with a none-too-uncommon Radiohead theme. There are those wonderful times when Radiohead feels anti-government or anti-capitalism, or just wants to make a political type statement ("Electioneering", anyone"). "Dollars & Cents" is a great example of this, and one of the better songs on Amnesiac
Originally Posted by Dollars & Cents
Oh yeah everytime democracy pays
So we're on the streets now
It's all over the streets
We are the dollar and cents and the pound and pence and the mark and the yen
We're gonna crack your little soul
Dark and meaningful lyrics are supported by a very dark feel with wild guitar bends and Phil Selway's constant ride cymbal. Thom's vocals really help with the melancholy feel. Give this one a good listen - it's a subtly awesome song that just feels right.
Well, this one was odd. This track is comprised almost solely of monophonic guitar playing with no apparent direction, eventually with bass underneath. This track seems rather out of place, and serves minimal purpose. It would be much more interesting if it were an effective lead-in song, but it has no relevance to "Like Spinning Plates", which makes it an almost pointless track.
Like Spinning Plates
Wow... that was unusual. But I liked it. I don't even really know how to explain why I liked it, I just did. It's a heavily layered song, with a 'spinning plate'-type sound effect, an odd sound effect that sound likes temporally altered orchestration (apparently, this is the song "I Will" played in reverse), the band, and a high-pitched Thom Yorke. It would make a great closer for the album, and actually works well as one when combined with "Life in a Glasshouse".
Life in a Glasshouse
Fits well after "Like Spinning Plates", and could be combined with it to make a great closer.
This is a brilliant and strong closer for the somewhat thin and spotty album. This is a jazzy, drunken, paranoid anthem, complete with sloppy brass/woodwind section. This is a wonderfully constructed piece that basically builds a story about an insane little world, a sort of "glasshouse".
Originally Posted by Life in a Glasshouse
Think of all the starving millions
Don't talk politics and don't throw stones
Your royal highness says
Well of course I'd like to sit around and chat
Well of course I'd like to sit and chew the fat
Well of course I'd like to sit around and chat
But someone's listening in
Thom Yorke's singing and piano playing are perfect on this song, as is the instrumental work. The brass and woodwinds sound tired and drunk, playing just sloppy enough for the listener to know it's intentional. Everything about the song works wonderfully, and this is one of the best songs on the album... it actually makes you think the album is better than it is when you listen straight through - it enhances the album experience! Cool!
I actually bought this album because of "Pyramid Song". I heard this track in a Music Appreciation class, and I was mesmerized. Already being a fan of Radiohead (OK Computer
, The Bends
), I decieded I'd try Amnesiac
. The rest of the album didn't quite stand up to my expectations - Amnesiac
is not one of Radiohead's best. It has lots of highs and lows, and bounces back and forth between them with reckless abandon, with much less flow than most of Radiohead's other works. It does feel like a Kid B
of sorts, but it is a respectable effort, and tracks like "You and Whose Army"" "Life in a Glasshouse" and "Pyramid Song" make it worth it, and proved in 2001 that Radiohead was still a force to be reckoned with, and not to be ignored. And, just as with every Radiohead CD, you have to give it a few listens through.
Overall Score: 3.5/5