I've been listening to Radiohead
's new album Amnesiac for about 2 months
now, but with its release in America today (June 5) and my subsequent purchase
of it I feel that I can write about it.
The first track is Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box, which is very much like Everything in its Right Place its counterpart on the last Radiohead
release Kid A
. This is one of several songs that even a relatively high quality MP3
does not do justice to, due to the large number of high and low frequency bleeps
which tends to cause problems with the MP3 encoding engine. This song resembles Autechre
, Aphex Twin
and even Squarepusher
in a style of Progressive Techno (aka Geek Techno
because of its clientele.) The main difference here is that unlike prog techno this song has vocals (albeit highly distorted.) The song is built on a keyboard riff and kettledrum beat and is filled with angular melodies but ends up being a very poppy song just the same.
The second track is the first UK
single, Pyramid Song. Ed O'Brien
the group's guitar player and sometimes backup vocalist says that this is the best song that the band has ever made. Originally called Nothing to Fear and later Egyptian Song it was first performed at the Tibetan Freedom Concert
in Washington, D.C.
. It is built around a two chord riff that Thom Yorke
(lead singer) sings over the top of with the support of synthesized strings. Halfway through the song, the song essentially begins again except this time with drums and more orchestration (lots of sythesized atmospheric sound effects are used.) Despite a simple base, this song does not get boring with repeated listens.
The third track, Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors
, is one of the most interesting tracks on the album as well as one of the most experimental. It is built on a repeating loop of distorted and sampled drum
sounds with other sythesized effects being added over it. In this song Thom Yorke learned the lyrics backwards and then ran them through in reverse after they were recorded. The effect is a strange, ghostly voice that hangs over the song.
Moving back again towards the traditional rock song is track four, You And Whose Army. Though Yorke has denied it many still believe that this song is an attack on British Prime Minister Tony Blair
, I'll leave this decision up to you. This song has much the same structure as Pyramid Song, it starts out quietly and gradually gets louder. The song starts out with a quiet electric guitar and then breaks into a louder piano based ending with Yorke's vocal wail going into full force.
I Might be Wrong is the fifth track and the first US single to hit the airwaves Thom Yorke describes as a song heavily influenced by The Rolling Stones
. The song has a bluesy, repetitive guitar riff built over a bass keyboard riff and a dance rhythm. The song sounds something like an electronic song that was recorded using real instruments. It's one of the songs that sounds better with the faster tempo, harder hitting live treatment that the band gave it in concert.
The sixth track is the most convential Radiohead song since Street Spirit and shares some musical similarities wih its abundant acoustic guitar arpeggios and overall lack of sythesizers (in fact, unlike Street Spirit, Knives Out has no keyboards in it.) This song is likely to be a big hit in Britain when it is released as a single though most of the band (and I) agree that it doesn't wear very well after about 10 listens.
Track seven, Morning Bell
makes a comeback on Amnesiac with a new version that Thom says was the inspiration for the album because this version was lost for a long time and then resurfaced after Kid A had been released. In this version of Morning Bell the tempo
is slowed down and the single organ from the first album is replaced by bells and many layers of keyboards. This is a great remake and many will probably consider it to be better than the original.
Dollars & Cents
is Track number eight and it could be the standout track on this album. It combines a wavering guitar that has heavy tremolo
with a moody bass riff, both of which are often overwhelmed by Thom's voice with is supported by a full orchestra
. The orchestra
sounds very brooding and ominous, especially as it drowns out the rest of the instruments at many portions of the songs. This song is complicated and the lyrics, warning that 'the dollars
and the pounds
and the pence
and the mark
and the yen
' are going to crack your soul
Track nine provides a Treefingers-like break in the song Hunting Bears. This song is an electric guitar slowly playing what sounds like a tune that is in the same key (or incorporates elements from Knives Out.) This guitar is later backed by Colin Greenwood
's bass. This song is short, instrumental and provides a great contrast to the next song.
Like Spinning Plates
is track ten and it is based off an older, unreleased Radiohead song that is then topped off with more synthesized sounds and Thom Yorke's voice (the part where sings 'and this still feels like spinning plates' has the coolest vocals of the album.) This song is another of the prog techno songs on the album, though it still sounds remarkably like a standard rock tune despite this. Spinning Plates provides an odd segue into the last song.
Track eleven is the only Radiohead song that has yet been released that wasn't written almost entirely by Thom Yorke. In fact, this song wasn't written by Thom Yorke at all it was written by Johnny Greenwood
, who is Radiohead's main multi-instrumentalist. This song has been described as 'Radiohead goes to New Orleans
' and this is not a bad description. The song is lead by 80 year old jazz trumpeter Humphrey Lyttleton
, who is backed by Johnny Greenwood on keyboards and a number of brass instruments played by several noted jazz
musicians. One wouldn't think a song like this could fit Radiohead's style, or even Thom Yorke's singing style, but remarkably it does and it provides an excellent ending to an excellent album.
This album is a great step towards a new Radiohead sound, while it does share some things in common with Kid A, such as this new electronic
bent, there are many many things that are different about the album, from the return of pure acoustic
numbers such as Knives Out
to new electronic forays with such as Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors