Review : Radiohead - Amnesiac
PitchforkYou've released a series of masterpieces in a row, each more challenging and rewarding than the last. You're being called the greatest band in the world, and many want you to become the biggest. You've been charged with uniting and possibly leading a large group of listeners who spent the late-1990s exploring some combination of the outré genres of post-rock, IDM, exotica, Tropicália, and French house; the emotionally resonant yet textural sounds of artists like Björk, the Verve, Beck, Stereolab, and Spiritualized; and the once-potent but now flagging spheres of rave, jungle, and techno. In short, there's a hell of a lot of pressure on you.
Whether prescient or just fortunate, Radiohead never had to create a new set of songs under the weight of these expectations. Instead, they followed the instant-classic Kid A with what they had planned to do from the start: Relatively quickly issue another set of songs recorded at the same time, a lengthy studio-bound period that ate up much of 2000.
Appearing nine months after Kid A, Amnesiac faced an uphill climb as steep as the icy mountains that adorned the earlier record's cover. And so it was that the record was met with derisive "Kid B" jokes, sniffed at as pretentious, or considered the work of a band that had moved a little too far to the left. In the face of choosing between the forward-looking sounds of Radiohead and the revivalism hailed as the New Rock Revolution, a lot of listeners and critics chose the easy way out. Eventually, later in the decade, artists like the Knife, Animal Collective, Liars, and LCD Soundsystem would carry the mantle of blending genres and upsetting listener expectations in rewarding ways. But in 2001, in an era when the radio and MTV were still the primary delivery systems for new music-- and after the majors felt burned by electronica, or by U2 and Smashing Pumpkins' ahead-of-the-game attempts to experiment with electronics in a stadium-rock setting-- creatively ambitious guitar music was still considered a commercial misstep....full text
RollingstonesIn between arena tours and Number One albums, Radiohead want to get away from it all. Not a week in Goa or a summer in Provence but a more complete escape: oblivion. The songs on Amnesiac contemplate suicide, divorce, paranoia and mysterious disappearances, and the music follows them into the ether.
Amnesiac is the work of a band determined to pursue its most wayward and musicianly impulses wherever they might lead. As such, it's clear proof that the progressive-rock impulse survived the twentieth century. On Amnesiac, which was made during the same recording sessions that yielded Kid A last year, Radiohead have set out to erase all that their listeners once expected. Acting like a bunch of artists - not, as in most current rock, a business consortium touting a consistent product - Radiohead continue to slough off the style that made them standard-bearers for anthemic Brit pop in the 1990s.
They started on Kid A by masking their old identity as a guitar-driven, big-crescendo rock band, and with Amnesiac they have gone on to dismantle whatever they might have taken for granted about songs themselves. All that's left to signify Radiohead is Thom Yorke's pained high-tenor voice, moving ever closer to the end of his tether. In "Dollars and Cents," which bitterly rejects commercial advice, he moans, "Let me out of here," murmuring as if he can barely remember how to shape human words, while the chords behind him waver between major and minor, perpetually unsettled....full text
SputnikmusicHas there ever been a band with as much hullabaloo around them as Radiohead? Yes. There goes the first hack at an introduction sentence. How about this? Has there ever been a band with as much deserved hullabaloo around them as Radiohead? Possibly not. The band perpetually shocks the world and revolutionizes music with each album they put out, starting with their acoustic rock standard The Bends. Then the massively discussed and argued about OK Computer, being as it's Radiohead's opus and what not. Following that album, Radiohead puts out Kid A, ends guitar-use in their music, ices the world over with their paranoia techno album, and Radiohead is the critic's darling. It's an arguable point that Radiohead can be put in the same class as The Beatles as in you can start pub fights over which album is their best. It's usually the three I mentioned before, and Hail To The Thief, because Hail To The Thief combines, if at times unsuccessfully, the sounds of the other three combined. But there's one album always, almost criminally, is left out of the barroom brawling fun. Spawned from the tumultuous Kid A sessions, Amnesiac is Radiohead's other techno album, the one that works in the same way as Kid A, only without the storyline and flow. The band promised Amnesiac would be filled with guitars and see the band return to the poppier side of things. Well that's bull***. Amnesiac is the weirder of the two Radiohead techno albums, except this one is jacked with piano, and though guitars pop up in this album, they aren't exactly focal points. In fact, a guitar doesn't even pop up until the fourth track. The similarities in the two albums are striking, but rest assured, this is no "Kid B".
Amnesiac's ghostly ambience music is rarely found in pop today. It is the continuation of Radiohead's "*** pop" phase, and throughout the album, you get the feeling vocalist Thom Yorke is on the verge of snapping. His lyrics border insane, but like the greatest poems, strike the hardest due to genius flow. Lines like "I jumped in the river, what did I see? Black eyed angels swam with me," and "We are going to crack you're little souls" reek with the paranoia Yorke publicly suffers from. The greatest lyricists in history all have had deep inner turmoil. Ian Curtis, Kurt Cobain, Edgar Allen Poe, all capable of grasping their inner demons and putting them on display in glass cases for the world to scrutinize. Thom Yorke is the survivor of this elite class. Barely. The feeling of being encased and observed like an animal in a zoo has always been a focal point for the band, and on Amnesiac, this disturbing feeling is only flashed with neon signs. During the choppy flow of Amnesiac's eleven pieces, the band seems to have finally reached their breaking point, like on the grand crescendo Life In A Glasshouse, Yorke sneers "Well of course I'd like to sit around and chat, but someone's listening in." Yikes. Nasty little one-liners like these make Radiohead so intensely beloved, but the thing is, they have a just as intense meaning. The album OK Computer were pieces dealing with the fear of a computer takeover of our world. Kid A is the panicked aftermath of the takeover. Thus, Amnesiac is this apocalyptic personal standpoint of Yorke in his own head. Through scary witticisms, Yorke, like a bad after school special about teen pregnancy, preaches "Don't let this happen to you"....full text
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