Review Summary: Amnesiac stands out as the band's most underrated album, delving further into the band's experimental side while challenging the listener with some of Radiohead's most remarkable songs.
Radiohead has always been a multifaceted band. With Kid A, the band redefined its sound and took a unique approach to music. Following the groundbreaking Kid A, Radiohead unveiled its darkest and most mysterious album yet. While Amnesiac is frequently dismissed by some fans as the "afterthought" or "B-sides" of Kid A, it holds its ground as Radiohead's most underrated LP. Amnesiac has a foreboding and abstract quality about it, one that will surely scare away any casual listeners.
Amnesiac continues the highly experimental edge of its predecessor, and although it manages to stand on its own, there are several similarities with Kid A. Of course, most of Amnesiac was recorded during the Kid A sessions. Once again, the electronic nature drives the album, however some of these songs might be considered more "conventional" than the ones on Kid A. Nevertheless, the album certainly challenges the listener. I've always listened to Kid A and Amnesiac differently. I view Kid A as a slightly more intricate and seamless album, whereas Amnesiac is more of a collection of individual songs. This is not a bad thing; it simply provides a different listening experience. Amnesiac incorporates a wonderful blend of musical styles into its clever arrangement of songs. Elements of jazz and krautrock can be heard among the various electronic textures. The end result is a dense and highly effective LP that encourages multiple listens to dissect those features.
"You and Whose Army", my personal favorite, is easily one of the band's most unique tunes. The song's anti-war message is buried beneath layers of light guitar strumming and Thom Yorke's muffled vocals. The underlying tension progresses into a sonic explosion of piano and bombastic percussion. Also, Yorke's voice shimmers during the song's somewhat soothing outro. "Like Spinning Plates" displays the band at its most experimental as Yorke sings over audio played backwards. Overall, the song rivals the audacity of Kid A and serves as one of the album's high points. Radiohead are still trying new things on Amnesiac, showing tenacity as they branch out even further into left field. Amnesiac is certainly spooky for its duration, but it also displays a very satirical attitude from a group of sly musicians.
The album also has its share of slightly more accessible songs. "Knives Out" is an excellent, upbeat tune that mixes a consistently steady drum beat with strange, cannibalistic lyrics. In addition, the fantastic guitar-driven "I Might Be Wrong" contains a superb build-up before retreating into a subtle, yet beautiful bridge underscored by Yorke's wails. Sprawling moments like these show a painstaking attention to sonic expansion. Radiohead go about creating their own unique structures and never show signs of fatigue.
The listener is quickly engrossed in the majesty of "Pyramid Song", a mystical song that transports the listener into the world of Radiohead. Despite the tune's intrinsic darkness, plenty of charm lies beneath the exterior. Furthermore, the album's opener, "Packt Like Sardines In a Crushd Tin Box", sets the tone of the album and establishes its peculiar character. "Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors" is easily one of the band's creepiest songs of all time. Nothing beats listening to this track in a dark room in the middle of the night. For all its quirks and unexpected turns, Amnesiac shows little interest in mass appeal and willingly wallows in tension and uneasiness. "Life In a Glass House" closes this spectacular album with a fusion of soaring trumpets and jarring piano. The blaring horn section adds to the intensity of the song, ending the album with a bang.
Amnesiac asserts its vigor from beginning to end. The songs are cryptic and sophisticated, and the band never fails to impress with its expansive arsenal of instruments and styles present throughout the album. Generally, Amnesac seems to be an overlooked album, overshadowed by the prestige of its predecessors. Nevertheless, this LP delivers on every level, creating an immersive, disturbing, and artful musical experience.
You and Whose Army?
Like Spinning Plates
I Might Be Wrong