Music Review: Radiohead, "Amnesiac"
by Alex Keen
Published: April 12, 2001
The newest Radiohead is in my possession - an entire Studio cut. Here are my impressions and review.
01 3:58 Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box
A kettle drum introduces itself(or is it a bell?), while the pump beat (much like the beat of "Idioteque") kicks in an up tempo resonance. This is an atmospheric song, meant to transition between "Kid A" and "Amnesiac." Has Radiohead decided to go entirely electronic due to their success with "Idioteque?" Simplistic lyrics [I am a reasonable man, get off my case - Tin Box] mirror [Ice age coming - Idioteque] [Women and children first - Idioteque], and the beat travels through the entire four-minute song.
Not a bad song, but not as interesting as "Idioteque." Radiohead decided to make this song less about emotion, and more about the unifying nature of men and computers. It is almost as if Thom is a computer, who thinks he's a man with real emotions. Speculation of course.
02 4:51 Pyramid Song **NEW** - Video thanks to ateaseweb.com
Although this song has been on the Internet longer than most others, I am still not a huge fan of it. To be frank, it bores me. The piano sure is beautiful as is Thom's voice, but after several listens it loses the appeal. Adding some strings and orchestration is a dramatic and an expanding effect. Yet I cannot feel anything but never ending boredom.
I guess giving us nothing to fear is what Radiohead hopes. My only hope is that I won't have to fear this song lasting much longer. Almost five minutes, it could be cut and half and still suit its purpose.
03 4:09 Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors
Two electronic songs in the first fifteen minutes?? Pulk depends entirely on computer distorted vocal and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" like bell tones. Pretty interesting song, but will most likely disappear in the background of the album like "Treefingers" did on "Kid A." I am still trying to figure out if Radiohead is trying to send us a message through instrumental songs, or if they fear writing lyrics that convey a point or an idea.
04 3:09 You And Whose Army
The song begins with what Radiohead fans have come to recognize as mumbling. Lately Thom Yorke’s vocals have begun to resemble Björk and Eddie Veddar. Whether you agree with his choice to hide his voice is your own prerogative. Unfortunately, it requires that the music behind the voice be exceptional to really make the song gel.
Luckily for “You and Whose Army” the band jumps in around the two-minute mark to make the song solid and entertaining. It seems that after three semi-boring eclectic tracks, the guys decided to at least give us another taste of Radiohead’s past.
Although my patience is running thin with this album, maybe that is the problem. Maybe I am not giving the album time to breath?
05 4:52 I Might Be Wrong
This is the purest rock song on the entire album. Reflections of “Just” abound, and a muttered vocal is not as bothersome this time. A powerful bass chord in tandem with the chainsaw guitar moves me front to back, side to side.
“Let's go down the waterfall” is one of the endearing lyrics on “Amnesiac.” This sweet rock lullaby feels like a hummingbird’s anthem to a wall of flowers waiting for death. The moaned – exaggerated – death vocal towards the end encourages a slow yet paced fade out.
At first for some reason, I thought I was listening to the unreleased “Palo Alto.” Mix together “I Might Be Wrong,” “Palo Alto” and “Just” on the same album, and Radiohead may appear to be a rock band again.
06 4:16 Knives Out
Considered to be the most conventional track on the CD, “Knives Out” is another song I have yet to find appealing. It shows Radiohead regressing back to “The Bends,” when they ignored creative messes for the band feel. It feels like this song was written and recorded to release for the radio.
Radiohead’s place as a pop music icon has never been my favorite discussion topic. This song screams pop radio. Vocals seem to be derived from an R.E.M leftover, given the Radiohead muttering style.
Sometimes you just have to say… Radiohead I wish you’d picked a different song.
07 3:14 The Morning Bell Amnesiac
“The Morning Bell” from “Kid A” was decent. “The Morning Bell Amnesiac” is a breath of fresh air. After some of the hogwash prior to “MB,” it was like visiting an old friend. The new mix focuses on being delicate. The vocal chirps in the background (whether they are voice or xylophone) are amazing. So are the horn bumps that liven up both the fore and background. It sounds remix as done by God, with the addition of bells, pings, and orchestration.
08 4:45 Dollars And Cents
This song was available for a brief time from WinAmp. That version was live and not of the clearest quality. The “Dollars and Cents” from “Amnesiac is a clear song, that uses mirrored vocals, a paced bass line, slight percussion, chirping guitars, and some shrieking strings.
On first listen I was not a fan. However, while writing the review, I think I may have found the true beauty of the song. The chaotic conclusion filled with echo and abundance of mix-match instrumentation is powerful. Then calm covers the track, as muttering hypnotizes my senses blind. Enter more strings.
Great songs were not built in one day. Neither were great listens.
09 1:59 Hunting Bears
An entirely instrumental track. Four words I usually cringe at when they relate to Radiohead. “Hunting Bears” is a good song. The guitar is magnificent, flaws and rubs intact. The song is not long, and pretty simple in details.
The name “Hunting Bears” alone thrills me. After seeing the blips w/ the bear, I kind of feel some sort of bond with this track.
10 3:57 Like Spinning Plates
Backwards track, something Radiohead has been leaning towards since “OK Computer.” More and more they seem to be molding their progression after The Beatles, David Bowie, and Nine Inch Nails. Attempt to push boundaries while never leaving the ideas of your elders behind.
The backwards tune added to a cricket chirp and a movie-like accompaniment makes the song unforgettable. By far one of the most creative songs of their career, Radiohead excels when they leave the canvas behind and paints on the ceiling and the refrigerator.
11 4:34 Life In A Glass House
Of all the pre-Studio tracks, this was by far my favorite bootleg guaranteed to be on “Amnesiac.” Once I attained the Studio tracks, I was floored. My favorite track had been crumbled into little pieces. I did not recognize “Glass House” at all. First impression – what is this crap.
Then love began. Radiohead goes flapper? They recreate the flavor of the roaring 20s with sweeping jazz tones and a powerful and clear vocal. This will be the song remembered from “Amnesiac” not only for its creativity, but also for its incredible balls.
Two albums in a row Radiohead have saved their best for last.
While not as good as "Kid A," the album is much better than most the music in vogue.
Please do not contact me about getting a bootleg. I intend on purchasing "Amnesiac" when it is released, and this review is for news purposes only.
To read my review of "Kid A"