(Planet Me)
Saturday, February 23, 2013

There's three types of people. Those who like “Kid A”. Those won don't. And those that have never heard of Radiohead.

Ever since 1995's huge “The Bends”, Radiohead have become huge without necessarily trying : a three year absence, resulting in the very different “Kid A”/”Amnesiac” could have decimated their career – certainly other, better bands have recoiled from fame the same way and doomed themselves to a life of penury. Now, two decades on, Radiohead operate in their own world. In the meantime, Thom Yorke has a second career. Though ostensibly a debut, “Amok” is really the second Thom Yorke solo album under a band name, using the same musicians that toured the “Eraser” debut a few years ago.

Without checking, you would think that “Amok” was recorded at the same time by the same people and not seven years later : the music is clearly different to his band, and in my opinion, better – a more considered sound that removes the rough edges of grating guitars and replaces them with dense synth textures, complicated and atmospheric drum patterns, and an overall sense of overwhelmed, exhaustion. Thankfully the sound is not compromised by Flea's (from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers) often asinine basslines which are thankfully tempered and thoughtful here. The percussion from former REM sticksman Joey Waronker bears few of the hallmarks of that band, being as it does, that the music is made from rearranged and remixed recordinsg of general jam sessions, instruments replaced with electronic imitations, sounding oddly human yet not.

It's difficult to pull out individual songs from the first few listens, and they all form a cohesive whole of material that are all individual yet very similar in style and feel.The mostly single word titles, and the occasionally muffled diction create a sense of wilful obfusication, or a deliberate distance generated : only with “Judge, Jury And Executioner” is a sense of a crack in the light, a way in, seen, but – like many of Yorke's more recent songs – they seem at first at least to be about something abstract, something distance, something unclear.

“Amok” is a difficult record, but not a perverse one : it requires the old fashioned virtues of paying attention – and lots of it – and repeated listening. Nothing on here will get played on the radio – then again, who cares what is played on the radio? The vast majority of it is absolute drivel anyway. This, an extension of “The Eraser”, is a sequel. The same but more. The record ends at the same place it started, which is with little sense of drama or completion.

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