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Radiohead - Amnesiac CD (album) cover

AMNESIAC

Radiohead

 

Crossover Prog

3.58 | 314 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
4 stars I find it absolutely hilarious that Radiohead specifically promised this would be a more guitar-heavy (which it might be, but not by much) and less inaccessible album than Kid A. This was recorded in the same sessions that produced Kid A, and it sure as heck sounds like a Kid A outtakes album. I liked Kid A pretty much from the start, never considering it at all inaccessible, and I still had a very hard time absorbing this album. The general approach to the songs might be more or less the same as on Kid A, but the songs, on the whole, are much more abstract in sound and feel than the ones on Kid A, and that's to its detriment.

The album bunches all of the "normal" songs into the middle, in a move that seems a little odd to me. Despite how much I enjoyed the experimentation on the last album, these are easily my favorites of Amnesiac. "I Might be Wrong" boasts an extremely effective riff that plays well off of the various "modern" (circa 2001) percussion rhythms, and Thom delivers a performance that reeks (in a good way) of snide cynicism. "Knives Out" sounds just like a typical OK Computer track, with a great set of guitar lines and a hell of a dark vibe (it appears to be about cannibalism), and because of that it's not surprising that so many fans clamored for this track to make it onto a proper studio album. And finally, "Amnesiac/Morning Bell" is a reworking of the Kid A version of the track, as the arrangement now centers around slow guitars instead of keyboards, and it's quite nice.

The other eight tracks, though, are all over the map. Quite a few of them, as has been pointed out by some others, work better as ideas than as completed tracks, and don't feel quite done yet. The most obvious offender is "Hunting Bears," a two minute guitar (mostly) instrumental that basically keeps playing a single line (that's not that great) over and over again, and it clearly should have been left off the album. "Pyramid Song" works more as a mood song than anything else, as the piano chords and various synth wails sound pretty and sad, and largely cover up the seemingly directionless nature of the song. I guess it would help if I could figure out exactly what mood the band tried to convey here. Some tracks, like the opening "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box," or "Pull/Pulk Revolving Doors," or "Like Spinning Plates," basically take a few off-kilter electronic rhythms and textures and build an entire song around them, with some singing that doesn't really have much of an effect one way or the other. I mean, I basically like these tracks, but I still find them a little off-putting, and I don't "get" them the way I do a lot of the Kid A material. I do like the closing "Life in a Glass House," with some effective and unexpected use of big band sounds, but the other two ("You and Whose Army?," "Dollars and Cents") more or less pass me by every time I hear them.

So basically, I still don't really know what to think of this album. My inclination is that I quite like the album overall, and that parts of it are great, but it still confuses me in a lot of places. I'd rather listen to this album straight through than The Bends, which is why it gets a slightly higher grade (to be exact, The Bends is a high ***, this is a very low ****), but I can't go higher than that. Fans of the band will definitely want this, but others should probably make sure they like Kid A a lot before getting this one.

PS: The "Hunting Bears" slot was originally supposed to be filled with a fantastic track called "Cuttooth," but was pulled out at the last minute for reasons I still don't know. With that track in the "Hunting Bears" slot, the flow and feel of the entire second half changes and improves drastically, and this becomes a more solid **** that could make a case some days for a *****. Alas, 'twas not to be.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |

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