Review Summary: The leftovers of Kid A create a wildly inconsistent album.
After OK Computer, Thom Yorke decided, for whatever reason, that he didn’t feel like making melodic songs anymore. He just wanted to focus on rhythm. Not everyone in the band felt the same way (Ed O’Brien wanted to just make pop songs), but that was the main direction the band took. They holed up in a studio and recorded a crapload of songs. A lot of them went onto Kid A, which shocked the world. Fans wondered what the heck they were listening to. However, the album received mostly positive feedback, though a few fans (my brother one of them) strongly disliked the change in sound. This album does nothing to change that; while it is not really all that similar to Kid A, it will not make fans who yearn for something like OK Computer or The Bends fans once again.
1. Packt Like Sardines in a Tin Can- The album opens up with what sounds like someone hitting a can. While some people find this song brilliant, I just don’t see it. Nothing about the song really stands out. The double-tracked drums are interesting, and the lyric, “Get off my case”, which is repeated quite often, works really well for an album opener. However, this song really isn’t anything special. 3/5
2. Pyramid Song- This song features one of the best lyrics on this album, and one of Thom Yorke’s best in general, “I jumped in the river what did I see" Black-eyed angels swam with me,”. The piano chords are played in an odd, offbeat rhythm. They work brilliantly. The strings add a lot to the song, as they typically do for Radiohead. 4.5/5
3. Pull/Pulk Revolving Doors- When I first heard this song, it tickled my brain a bit and I thought it was a definite highlight. However, after repeated listens, I realized that it has a few flaws. First off, it’s quite similar to the song Kid A. Vocals which are hard to understand, looped drums, and very atmospheric. However, it’s a much weaker track. It’s a lot longer, and the bass drums don’t work in the song that well. Also, the effects on the vocals aren’t appealing. The song would still be OK, but it’s about a minute too long. It also ends nearly the exact same way that Pyramid Song does. 2/5
4. You and Whose Army"- Thom Yorke breathes in, then plays simple chords and sings, though the vocals have some sort of effect on them. The song slowly adds in one element at a time. The song is really quite simple, especially at the beginning, with Colin Greenwood coming in playing single notes on the bass. Then the drums come in, and the piano right afterwards. As each element comes in, they get a bit louder, slowly crescendoing into a very grand chorus. It’s basically an anthemic song, which is quite welcome. 5/5
5. I Might Be Wrong- Some synthesizers set the scene for a great riff to come in. Easily the hardest-rocking track so far, the riff is steady throughout most of the song. Selway’s drums create a nice backbone, and when Colin Greenwood comes in bass, it’s quite emphatic. It’s the bass that gives the song its heavy feel. The best part of the song is the outro, which features a brilliant breakdown. 4.5/5
6. Knives Out- If I had to guess, I would say that Ed O’brien was the one who wanted this song to be written. The guitars are incredibly melodic and soothing, while the drums once again give the song a nice backbone. The vocals are refreshingly untouched by any effects. The lyrics are incredibly hateful, with lines like, “ If you’d been a dog, they would have drowned you at birth,”. The song is quite good, but would have benefited from being a bit shorter, as it is quite repetitive. 4/5
7. Morning Bell/Amnesiac- This is an alternate version of Morning Bell off of Kid A, and it’s basically the exact opposite. While the other one is centered around Phil Selway’s driving beat and features distorted, moaning vocals, this one has no drums and is built around hazy guitars. No clue where the word hazy came from, but it’s the word that pops in my head when I listen to it. This is another song that lost value over time; I used to think it was better than its predecessor; now it’s somewhat of a boring listen, as its repetitive. However, the lyrics are still great (“Where’d you park the car” and “Cut the kids in half” never get old). 3.5/5
8. Dollars & Cents- This song features one of the best strings compositions from Jonny Greenwood to this point in his career. They are so beautiful, I can’t even describe it. However, that’s basically the only good thing about this track, besides the crescendo in the middle. The drums are basically exactly the same as Knives Out, which is something that is really hard to get past; it’s the first thing you notice when you listen to the song. The vocals are nothing special, and the bass is uninspired. 3/5
9. Hunting Bears- This song kind of feels like the climax of the album, which sucks, because it’s pretty awful. Literally, this song is two minutes of a few notes of guitar, followed by its echo. There are a couple notes of bass which are also allowed to echo, but they do nothing to help the song. Luckily, it’s only two minutes. 2/5
10. Like Spinning Plates- I have no clue how to describe the opening sounds of this song; all I can say are that they are wonderful. With this song, the album starts to wind down a bit. The song is also quite atmospheric, but the sounds are much more interesting than Pull/Pulk. After about two minutes, Thom Yorke starts to sing some unintelligible lyrics. Also, this song ends right when it should. At the end, some spacey sounds come in, which help to lull the listener even more. It would’ve worked as
an album closer, but luckily, we’ve still got one more to go. 4/5
11. Life in a Glasshouse- This is about the only parallel between Kid A and Amnesiac; the last song is brilliant. The song opens with a sound that is similar to the one which the previous track was built around. Then some piano chords come in, then Selway comes in on the hi-hat. The song has a really jazzy feel to it thanks to the clarinet and horns section. The song has no guitar, and the bass is almost inaudible. The best part of the song is at the end of the verse into the chorus. All the instruments drop out, while Thom Yorke sings the end of “living in a glass house”, then all the instruments crash in majestically. The song slowly builds up; while the drums don’t change, the clarinet and horns are allowed to build themselves up seemingly randomly until the final chorus where they explode. Absolutely brilliant. 5/5
There is one more problem with the album; there is no flow. After the brilliant flow of OK Computer and Kid A, this is quite a shock. With great flow, Kid A is able to make the bad songs (Treefingers, In Limbo) necessary to the album as a whole. This album does not do anything of the sort, making the bad tracks very skip-worthy. Things like "Pyramid Song" and "Pull/Pulk Revolving Doors" ending the same way are evidence that the band didn’t put the same effort into producing the album. Also, the transition from "Like Spinning Plates" into "Life in a Glasshouse" could’ve been something brilliant, but isn’t, again probably because of laziness. However, considering this can basically be viewed as a collection of B-sides, as long as you don’t go into it expecting something absolutely mind-blowing, you should be satisfied with this album
Final Rating: 3.7/5