First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2001, Volume 8, #9
Written by John Metzger
After blowing rock music to smithereens with the creepy, operatic OK Computer and the eerie, freak-out Kid A, Radiohead opted to remain in the same stylistic space for its latest endeavor Amnesiac. That's not to say that its new outing doesn't continue to push boundaries. It most certainly does that. But this time around, Radiohead declined to shift its focus and instead put together an album that clears the deck for whatever path the group's members might wish to wander next. Consequently, Amnesiac feels more like a hodgepodge of B-sides and previously unreleased recordings (albeit very good ones), resulting in a collection of songs that ultimately leans toward the "been there, done that" side of the spectrum.
Throughout Amnesiac, Radiohead employs the same suffocating, isolated ambience that graced the disc's predecessors. On Pyramid Song, an orchestra chimes in, rising and falling as the band drifts just slightly off-kilter in a space-age waltz, and the droning percussive groove of I Might Be Wrong becomes a twirling, meditative churn. Singer Thom Yorke's vocals continue to swoon with a dreamy, yet suicidal quality, often swerving into the contorted, mechanical fragments of a futuristic, nightmarish hallucination. Volleys of electronic tones bombard his distorted spoken word exchange with avant garde artiness on Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors. On You and Whose Army?, Yorke seems to struggle for his breath as he sinks deeper into the song's bubbling, molten texture.
While Amnesiac does have a little more in common with OK Computer than it does with Kid A, it is not the listener-friendly outing that it was touted to be. Indeed, the major difference between these two discs is simply the return of Jonny Greenwood's guitar, though it's now utilized primarily to add additional shade and color to the band's murky mood music. Since Amnesiac and Kid A were culled from the same recording sessions, it really shouldn't be much of a surprise that the releases share such a close bond. However, while one album of electronic experimentation sounds fresh, two can be a bit trying, and part of the problem with Amnesiac no doubt lies with the fact that its songs don't hold together nearly as well as those on Kid A. Regardless, Radiohead remains a major force, reshaping the face of rock music for the new millennium, and as the band closes this chapter of its history, one can only wonder where it will go from here. ½
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Best Recording Package
Amnesiac (Special Limited Edition)
Of Further Interest...
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2001 The Music Box