Review: Atoms for Peace - Amok

It's hard to believe that the gap between Thom Yorke's debut solo effort The Eraser and Radiohead's career-affirming In Rainbows was a little over a year. Comparatively, the gap between the brilliant Hail to the Thief and The Eraser was a whole three years. If Radiohead has a face, it's Thom Yorke, but Amok, the debut album from the supergroup consisting of Yorke, producer Nigel Godrich and Chili Peppers bassist Flea, among others, is perhaps a demonstration again that Yorke's abilities as a musician really only flourish when he's with the Greenwoods and co. This isn't to say that The Eraser or indeed, Amok, are bad records. Far from it, in fact. It's just that with Amok, he seems to be selling himself short a little.

Amok immediately strikes the listener as if there is an incompatibility within the group. Before Your Very Eyes... has this very contagious sense of a jam session - Flea's bassline is buried underneath these synths that dance around like Yorke in the video for Ingenue, but it all feels displaced. That afformentioned video does a good job of working as a metaphor for Amok, actually. He dances with a companion, but it's far more choreographed and organized than the brilliant purposelessness of the video for 2011's Lotus Flower. Default is the closest that Atoms for Peace come to sounding like Radiohead on Amok as Yorke's chilling falsettos pierce the soul once again: "but it's eating me up/it's eating me up".

Amok continues to go nowhere after Default. Unlike Liars' 2012 record WIXIW (pronounced 'wish you'), which manages to be passively exceptional, Amok seems to linger in its own shadow, refusing to step out. Liars' WIXIW has been described as the best Radiohead record since Kid A so maybe it would suffice to say that Amok is the worst Radiohead record since Kid A. People who didn't appreciate The King of Limbs as much as they should have done - it is their third best record of the 21st Century, after all - may find themselves more appreciative after Amok.

Unless at least is a strong effort, with Yorke singing "I couldn't care less" in front of a beat that is reminiscent of Björk's Hunter. The beat pulsates behind the synths, swirling into these creepy vocals, again reminiscent of Björk's more experimental work. Unless is a somber and forlorn track and probably the pick of the bunch. It isn't quite as intoxicating as Björk's masterpiece, but it is brilliant nonetheless. Judge, Jury, Executioner isn't as good, however. Its trite title isn't particularly helped by the fact that the hook is sung in such a hollow and humdrum manner. 

When Amok impresses - Default, Unless, Reverse Running at times - it is barely enough to justify this supergroup. There are hints of Radiohead beneath Flea's basslines, and unsurprisingly, these hints are the highlights. Atoms for Peace don't bring together their influences very well, despite being able to hold the attention of the listener. Amok is a decent effort, one that is worth returning to, but is it really too much to just ask for another Radiohead record?  


Thursday, 7 March 2013

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