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Radiohead - Amnesiac CD (album) cover

AMNESIAC

Radiohead

 

Crossover Prog

3.58 | 314 ratings

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Certif1ed
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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Not particularly memorable, but...

Amnesiac is not for fans of Indie music or Alt Rock, but fans of Can, Holger Czukay's solo material, and the more avante-garde will find plenty to enjoy both here and on Kid A, the two most creative and progressive albums of Radiohead's catalogue.

This is simply not the same Radiohead that wrote Creep, but a band seeking to obliterate the looming monolith of OK Computer that threatened to be a gravestone for the band. How could they possibly follow up a work of such magnificence, relevance and, as it turned out, influence. Every other band and it's dog started to sound like Radiohead in order to shift product, so the band were faced with a dilemma;

Create OK Computer 2, or choose the more artistically ethical path of attempting to create something new? Fortunately, they chose the latter, and we are left with two highly progressive albums that are not easily accessible as Radiohead's earlier work was, but challenging and very deep. Other reviews have exposed remarkable background information, so I will do what I prefer to do - just relax myself into the musical groove and pass on what I hear.

From the opening percussive sounds of "In a Crushd Tin Box", we can tell that there is an unusual sonic landscape unfolding before us. The deep thuds of the electro groove that drives the rest of the track recalls Can. Thom's vocals are oddly soothing, but Wow! the textures that open up on guitar and keyboards are like nothing else, and the odd mantra of "I'm a reasonable man, get off my case" punches through the mix. The music continues to unfold organically and increases in intensity and complexity of texture, with every detail in the music crisply marked out until the sudden ending.

"Pyramid Song" blows the memory of the previous textures away with a simple piano riff that attempts to be rhythmically neutral. Delicate washes of electronics occasionally wind their way around Thom's haunting melody. The entry of drum and bass is pristine and rhythmically complex, and more textural build-ups keep the momentum of the musical journey intact. Again, a lyrical mantra emerges; "Nothing to fear, nothing to doubt".

"Revolving Doors" catches us by surprise - the percussive sounds are massive, giving the feeling of equipment being pushed to the limits. Mmmm! Thoms voice is oddly processed, through some kind of vocoder, and again, we get a concentration on electronic textures, with some curious and fascinating alternations The rhythm section is worth noting, as it is very inventive.

"You and Whose Army" begins like a track from OK Computer or the Iron Lung EP, with Thom's vocals, delicate guitar work from Mr Greenwood, and slightly sinister mid-range vocal harmonies. The double bass changes the sound closer to a simplistic jazz texture, and Thom's vocals wander in a nice jazz style. When the drums enter, it does seem as if we're back in OK Computer territory, but Radiohead are ahead of the game and pull in the melodies nicely to concentrate more on the textures and natural ebb and flow in the music.

"I Might be Wrong" is just incredible and unpredictable - you just don't know which way this song is going to turn, and yet the building blocks are very simple. This is how to create great and original songs without resorting to virtuosic noodling in order to impress. Instead, Radiohead concentrate on taking textures, riffs and patterns from their own past - there is much about this song that reminds me of songs on "The Bends", but then subject them to a whole new treatment with electronic washes and the layering of instrumental parts.

"Knives Out" is much more conventionally in the previously established Radiohead style - but again, listen to the rhythmic invention; there's some really subtle stuff going on here. Thom's voice is given the full treatment for this track, and rings out beautifully - this is the first time we get the feeling of a "song" proper, as in previous tracks, the voice is used simply as part of the overall musical texture.

Through the rest of the album, Radiohead continue re-inventing their sound and style moulding melodies, scultping soundscapes, realising rhythms and throwing textures off the wall - Amnesiac/Morning Bell recalls "No Surprises" with the little xylophone motif, Dollars and Cents, a monumental track, continually threatens to erupt with the driving bass line and suggestive drums with controlled build-ups and pull-backs...

This is an album that rewards the patient listener - the listener that is not after a "hit" or to be bludgeoned by virtuosic impressiveness, but demands something a bit more special from music - something that recalls the past without blatantly stealing from it, something that looks to the future and enters the realm of the experimental without going into the more psychotic avante-garde - something truly progressive, rather than regurgitative.

There is nothing to not like about Amnesiac, and everything to like. It doesn't completely blow me away - and I don't want it to. It's not an album I'd revisit constantly, but one to return to every now and then to enjoy the refreshing change, and notice things you hadn't noticed before. Although Amnesiac is far more progressive than OK Computer, and a truly great album, a Masterpiece of prog should call me from the shelf every time I go to put some music on, telling me that if I choose something else I might regret it.

Amnesiac does not do that. In fact, it kind of lives up to its name - by the time you've heard it all the way through, you know you've heard something very special, but you can't remember any of it, and you don't really want to hear it again immediately.

Hence I do not consider it a masterpiece - but it is amazing and a great investment for any fan of Prog.

Certif1ed | 4/5 |

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