Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Album Review: Radiohead - Amnesiac


Have recently been listening to Amnesiac by Radiohead. Derided as Kid B when it came out, I never got around to listening to it until very recently. Kid A was an album which I struggled with at first but has grown on me enormously to the point of near obsession. The first few bars of Everything In Its Right Place take me into a wonderful, airlocked space.

I'm not a huge fan of Radiohead, Thom Yorke's voice grates after a while and also they are completely overrated, belonging to the canon of bands who seem to defy criticism (Velvet Underground, Smiths, Pixies, Stone Roses, Nirvana etc). This album is possibly more accessible than Kid A. The opening track, Packt Like Sardines in a Crushed Tin Box, is a thoroughly original piece of music, driven by a wonderful bassline and a great chorus of 'I'm a reasonable man, get off my case'.

This momentum is spoiled a little by the next track, the funereal 'Pyramid Song'. Not a bad song in itself, but the plodding pace of it jars after Packt. And the less said about the next track, Pull/Pulk Revolving Doors, the better. It's kind of a drum 'n' bass experiment with some warped vocals thrown in, minus any melody worth speaking about. You and Whose Army comes as a welcome relief, which starts with Yorke singing over some sparse electric guitar, before the rest of the instruments come in and build to a great little climax. I Might Be Wrong grooves along nicely, leading into Knives Out, the most 'normal Radiohead' sounding track on the album. It's a great tune, all long drawn-out syllables and jangly guitars.

Morning Bell is reprised from Kid A, but with a totally different arrangement. The serene Kid A arrangement is replaced by an almost child-like arrangement. It sounds a little throw-away until you realise that you can hear the lyrics even more clearly as Yorke's voice is right out front, giving more emphasis to lines like 'cut the kids in half'.

It's followed by Dollars and Cents which to my ears is less interesting and a bit more old-school Radiohead. Hunting Bears is a nice instrumental led by electric guitar which builds a nice healthy bit of tension before the warped sounding Like Spinning Plates, where it sounds like the keyboard line was played backwards.

Life in A Glasshouse is the closing track and it sounds like an old jazz band after taking a load of downers. Yorke sounds almost too bleak on this one before becoming somewhat dismissive at the end ('of course I'd like to sit around and chat'). It's an unsettling way to end the album. Nevertheless the album rewards repeat listening. It's less of a cohesive listen than Kid A, but probably contains more impressive individual songs.