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Radiohead - Amnesiac
(Capitol Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: June 9, 2001


By Tony Bonyata

It's hasn't even been a year since they released Kid A, a bold, futuristic adventure that challenged standard rock aesthetics, but Radiohead has just delivered it's follow up - Amnesiac.
The material for this album was written and recorded during the Kid A sessions, but was held back because the group felt that it worked better as two separate collections rather than a double album. And considering that the material may have been too daunting for most fans to swallow at once, it seemed a wise choice.
While not quite as alienated as its predecessor, Amnesiac, nonetheless, still retains the otherworldly soul of Kid A. Although Thom Yorke's vocals are more 'out front' in the mix along with reintroducing a bit more guitar back into the fold, the unique compositions and ambient song structures will still undoubtedly confuse most music fans weaned on 'verse-chorus-verse' styled pop.
At first pass, many of these songs seem like they might have actually been the 'B-sides' from the Kid A sessions, but after further listenings these songs slowly unfold like flower pedals to a sun shower. From the opening industrial drum clangor and Kraftwerkian synth blips on "Packt Like Sardines In a Crushd Tin Box" the tone is set. Yorke's helium-fed, alien-like vocals land upon the strange pounding terrain of sonic machine rhythms and swirling electronica, while a piercing sitar-like guitar tone sounds like Neil Young on an West Indian sojourn on the short instrumental "Hunting Bears." And nodding to the album's title they revisit the number "Morning Bell" from Kid A, although this time it's more haunting and ambient - posing the deja vu question, "Haven't we been here before?"
Reexamining the dissonant jazz they incorporated into "The National Anthem," from Kid A, Radiohead have leaned towards turn-of-the-century New Orleans jazz as a marching brass band spills out a cacophonous dirge on "Life in a Glasshouse."
What may please those more in tune with their earlier work such as OK Computer and The Bends are the slightly more traditional rock numbers "Knives Out," which hints of The Smiths turned onto progressive rock, and "I Might Be Wrong," featuring a redundant, slack-jawed guitar-line.
While not quite as strong as its predecessor, the soundscapes and colorful audio imagery on Amnesiac are still just as refreshing and brave - finally giving new hope to rock music's long slagging scene.

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