Amnesiac Album reviews.
Release Date: 06.05.01
Record label: capitol
Oh No, Pop Is Dead. Long Live Pop.
by: bill aicher
It was 1997 when the world changed. The world, the music world at least, was waiting in silent anticipation for a new rock record from a little band called Radiohead. On the heels of The Bends, an album considered one of the greatest rock albums of recent history, the world awaited another great rock album. What they got would change the history of music. What they got was Ok Computer. And Ok Computer was just the beginning.
It was an album beyond what anyone expected. It was an album beyond what anybody imagined. The world loved it, Radiohead became known as possibly "the greatest rock band in the world." And it was good.
They toured, and they recorded, and the world waited. The world waited for more than three long years. They waited to hear another album as mind expanding as OK Computer. The problem was that the world had come to expect another Ok Computer. What they got was another step in evolution. What the world got was Radiohead's new brainchild. Their new creation. The birth of Kid A.
And the world saw that it was good.
And now, once again, it is time for evolution to take another leap forward. It is time to welcome Amnesiac.
Taken mostly from recordings during the Kid A sessions, Amnesiac is Radiohead's hope to regain their pop accessibility. Unlike Kid A, which was never intended to be a "commercial" album, Amnesiac is poised to make the world remember who Radiohead is, and just what they are capable of. Early rumours from the album described it as a more rock-roots album, taking the band back to a The Bends era sound. Pop rock at its finest.
It's a far cry from the truth. But do not be dismayed my dear friends. Eclecticism is a virtue. At least for Radiohead. Pop can be eclectic. And dammit, Radiohead is set to prove it.
Take Kid A's experiments with electronic beats and samples. It was a difficult album for some to digest, let alone appreciate. Until you listened closer. Look backwards through the generations through Ok Computer - back to The Bends. And the evolution is there, it is a logical progression that Radiohead were only the bravest to undertake. Follow the evolution back forward and see where they are likely to go. And combine them all.
And you have Amnesiac.
It's an amalgamation. It's everything the band has learned in time, combined together, and evolved once again. Opening the album is "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box," a track straight from the vein of Kid A. Synth-pop sequences, an Aphex Twin beat, and Thom's vocals of "I'm a reasonable man get off my case" set the tone for the rest of the album. This is followed by the first UK single, "Pyramid Song." It's infusion of piano chord melodies with string synths and Yorke's haunting vocals make for a song similar to "Rabbit In Your Headlights" (off the UNKLE compiliation), yet a thousand times more emotional and a thousand times more beautiful. Quite possibly Radiohead's finest moment to date.
This moves directly into "Pull/Pulk Revolving Doors," a track which could have quite possibly been a throwaway attempt at a drum n bass tune that somehow becomes a catchy example of experimentation at it's finest. With little vocals other than a tweaked Yorke speaking of "doors that lock and doors that don't."
But yet you may ask, where are the guitars? Where is the rock band I had grown to love and adore on The Bends and Ok Computer? The band is here. The first U.S. single, "I Might Be Wrong" follows along the path of Kid A's "The National Anthem" with a repeated guitar lick over Yorke's nearly intelligible vocals. And it's catchy as hell. Still, if this is not your cup of tea they have included rock tracks including "Knives Out" and "Dollars and Cents." Both of which bleed of the complicated musicality of Radiohead, but are examples of pop rock at it's finest.
The album's one throwaway track is a simple segue entitled "Hunting Bears." A short track, it sounds of nothing more than a guitar warmup. Still it's much more interesting than "Treefingers" and for those who simply hate it - it's over before you have time to press skip.
Closing the album is "Life in a Glass House," a track commonly performed at soundchecks, which has finally received a studio treatment - and perhaps a glimpse at where the band may be going. Featuring a New Orleans Jazz style horn section, this is not "The National Anthem."
But have Radiohead done it? Have they released a great album? Thom Yorke has described Amnesiac as the band's "little secret." It's the album they are most proud of. It follows the natural progression from Kid A and it makes sense. And it won't turn listeners away.
Instead it's a simply beautiful album, yet it leaves you with that itch in your brain that itch that itch you can't scratch, but you aren't sure even sure you want to.
It feels right somehow. At first it catches you off guard. It's something you don't know it's something you aren't used to. But somehow it feels like it's at home. And when it goes away - you want it back. You want it back in your head.
Oh yes. It's a splendid itch.