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Radiohead - Amnesiac CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.63 | 413 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

3 stars When I reviewed Kid A I forgot to mention the insane CD booklet. Amnesiac's, while not as elaborate, was also extremely complex and I remember as a troubled young man in 2001, lying on my bed for an inordinate amount of time staring at the art work and trying to find the hidden meanings, though I now realise they were probably never there to be found.

So it goes with the music- seems very portentous and deep but really this album's a bit lightweight. How come I give Kid A five stars yet the second half of the Johnny/Thom Show phase of Radiohead only gets three?

These songs are apparently ideas that were played with during Kid A but got edited out or unfinished when Kid A was compiled. They're not exactly cutting room floor scraps because they were finished/tidied/re-recorded once the band decided to go ahead with a second full release of Kid A sessions material and it shows because individually they sound very good- these are not shoddy knock-offs done after a few pints at lunchtime. The problem is not the songs but the album- there is little to no sense of cohesion or flow between these pieces. The tracks begin and end which is a big step down from the wonderful sense of completeness Kid A had.

Secondly, though this album contains three of Radiohead's greatest songs (Pyramid Song, Like Spinning Plates, Life In A Glass House) a lot of the other stuff is pretty meh. I like it, but it's not at all essential.

Packed Like Sardines In A Crushed Tin Box originally irritated the heck out of me but its cool, calm, disinterested vibe gradually grew on me- the lyric seems to be a fairly clear response to Kid A's reception. (But then You And Whose Army's lyric seems to be about Bush and Blair only that didn't happen for two more years, hmm.) Speaking of You And Whose Army, I like the start with the sort-of-sarcastic-but-also-genuinely-nice croony vocal arrangement, but find the latter part where it gets noisy ugly and unappealing. Pulk I quite like but it is too repetitive- they should have varied the beat more, made it more volative and less safe and they could have had quite an interesting piece there. From You And Whose Army to Dollars And Sense we find ourselves in a sort of almost=but-not-quite territory. I Might Be Wrong conjures up a nice atmosphere and has an interesting lyric but doesn't bring enough of a tune to the table to make it memorable. Knives Out, the actual band track on the album, is just a bit flat and dreary. The Morning Bell remake is alright but as other's have said, the Kid A version is definitely superior which makes this one hard to justify. Dollars And Sense's use of orchestra is well produced but not enough happens to make me get into the track.

Hunting Bears does feel a bit like filler but I like it because it sets things up nicely, sort of clearing the palate for the closing duo of excellency. I used to listen to Like Spinning Plates over and over. Random tape looping and scratching underneath a barely intelligible lyric from Yorke actually end up being absolutely entrancing, at least to my ears. And after something as advanced and experimental as that, of course they bring in a jazz band for a straight forward Dixieland track. No, really. Even after the use of horns on The National Anthem on Kid A, to hear Radiohead doing a Dixieland track was probably the biggest shock on Amnesiac but at least it works- and the guys they're using can seriously play.

Only thing I haven't mentioned is Pyramid Song which, like Like Spinning Plates, I used to listen to over and over. An extremely off-putting time signature manages the difficult feat of being maddening and addictive at the same time- I wouldn't envy Phil Selby when playing this life. The majestic use of pianos and keys, Yorke's delicate vocal, the swirling background noises... it's a very sad yet also uplifting piece and is a real jewel.

Overall though, a few high notes in a set that is interesting rather than good don't save this from the "only for people who want to hear some experiments" box as it isn't strong enough to cross outside of that box. No disgrace but most fans seem to agree that it ended the run of classics they had from The Bends to Kid A.

Textbook | 3/5 |


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