Atoms For Peace
Feb 27, 2013 Web Exclusive
If you've ever seen Radiohead live (or watched the "Lotus Flower" video), you're aware that Thom Yorke really likes to dance. But as opposed to graceful, purposeful movements, jerky gyrations and sudden twitches fill Yorke's dancing. AMOK, Yorke's first album with his supergroup Atoms for Peace, is the first full-length record that sounds like it was created with Thom Yorke's dancing in mind.
It's always a challenge to figure out what makes a Yorke side or solo effort different from Radiohead albums, and AMOK is no exception. That's made even harder by the opening to first track "Before Your Very Eyes ...," which, with its cascading guitar line and clamoring polyrhythms, could have easily found its way onto The King of Limbs. But then the aggressive synth lines start to sneak in and the main difference between Atoms for Peace and Radiohead becomes apparent: this new band is a lot groovier.
This makes sense when you realize who the others in the band are. The bassist, Flea, is mostly known for his aggressive slap funk work for Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the percussionists are primarily known for their work with Beck, R.E.M., and David Byrne. The remaining member is Nigel Godrich, the longtime Radiohead producer who has also worked with Beck and Paul McCartney.
AMOK is almost uniformly beat-heavy. The first track released, "Default," is basically a skewed version of a dance song, and "Dropped" seems to have been written for festival crowds of awkwardly shuffling hipsters. "Unless" builds from a slow boil into head-bobbing waves of repeated tones, while "Reverse Running"—perhaps the album's best track—uses some of the album's only muted piano line to complement a backbeat of crazy time signatures and slinky bassline. The whole project is much more cohesive than you might expect from what's technically a debut album.
This is not to say there aren't some missteps: "Ingenue" is the album's only sort-of ballad, which mostly means it's boring. "Judge, Jury and Executioner" and "Stuck Together Pieces" seem made up of ideas we've heard on previous (and better) Radiohead singles. But none of these can sink what is a terrific album—after all, it's not like Radiohead has never released a song that didn't merit these same criticisms. AMOK is an album you'll need to spend time unpacking, which means it's cut from the same cloth as every good Radiohead album. But with this one, maybe you'll get to dance a little along the way. (www.atomsforpeace.info)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 8/10