Posts Tagged ‘amnesiac’

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Off This Century – My Favorite Albums of 2000-2009

December 25, 2009
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Radiohead – Amnesiac

August 29, 2007

This one is a quickie. I wrote a review for this one a long time ago. It’s still in the archives. I decided I didn’t like it so I redid it.

While Radiohead’s 2000 album Kid A was already a shocking experience, nothing could have possible prepared fans for what would proceed the album in only a year, the vastly obscure Amnesiac. Written as a parallels to one another, the two albums fit together like pieces of an obscure and disturbing, yet ultimately ingenious puzzle. Kid A had it’s fair share of uplifting moments throughout the paranoia and gloom, but Amnesiac pulled no punches, and searched for an answer in the same vein as Kid A. Both albums share some specific themes, as evidenced by the two separate versions of the song Morning Bell, but both have very different personalities. It seems as if both started in the first place, a single point of birth, and spiraled off spontaneously in opposite directions. Kid A made the climb ad infinitum, and Amnesiac dug into deeper ground and swam into darker water. The album is largely a disturbing search for some kind of resolution to life’s angst and internal pain, and the trip it takes to the answer is nothing short of astounding. But let’s not kid ourselves, the chances that any album after Kid A would have been an easy listen is zero to none. That’s not to say that this album is completely unaccessible. You have heard weirder music, but sometimes it feels like the emotional bomb is being dropped track after track, and the only thing that seems traditional are time signatures which aren’t even always present. Upon first listen, the record will mostly likely sound distant and unapproachable, but once the listeners ears decide to take the wheel and drive the music home, a beautiful flower blooms and things start to make sense. Each song is hand crafted in this way, to reap rewards over time, and only time will do this work. Most of the songs, such as Knives Out and Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors meander with no real resolution, perhaps representing some kind of ongoing search. There is some accessible material here, namely I Might Be Wrong, an electronic groove which builds itself fantastically into catchy layers which build and then destroy themselves to a wonderful effect. Many Radiohead fans also cite Pyramid Song as the bands best song. But simple lack of accessibility leads many to believe that the album is at fault despite how much someone can enjoy it in the end. Radiohead know that how much one wants to make a record that can tear down doors won’t necessarily make them deliver. While at first it may seem like a collection of songs that simply weren’t strong enough for Kid A, Amnesiac actually has more structure than it’s predecessor, and is just as enthralling when one finally comes to understand it’s ins and outs. While this is easily Radiohead’s most difficult, jarring, and wildly experimental album, it is also the most engaging, rewarding, and to some, the best.

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Radiohead – Amnesiac

June 3, 2006

 

Radiohead has always been sort of a hit or miss band. Some people “get” them, and some people take the lack of consistency as a weakness. In many ways, it is a weakness, but it surely refines the fanbase quite a bit. Out of all of Radioheads albums, Amnesiac might be the definitive hit or miss album. It was meant to be released as sort of a companion record to Kid A, and that really didn’t help it much. In my opinion, Kid A is a masterpiece. While Amnesiac is nothing close, it is still respectable. I’m not sure how the band decided what tracks would go on what disk, but this is the weaker of the two by means of strong tracks if nothing else. It may be more focused, and it may have its ideas more organized than Kid A, but that is exactly what makes it the less liked album. There are still many surprised to be found here, though.

Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box is an interesting note to start the album off on. It’s a very skewed track. The synthesizers and electronic beats will come as familiar in some way to Radiohead fans who remember Kid A. The core of the song comes in a tightly packed cowbell type sound, with looming sound effects that sort of climb upward, in a routine spiral. I like it, but I don’t really know why. This kind of track relaxes me for some reason. I get tired a lot, and I have ADD, so I tend to just drift off when I am listening to music. This is one of those such songs that I can just get taken away during, by the routine beat. Actually, that happens a lot on Kid A too. Both albums have this very exact beat and very accurate presentation, even if there doesn’t seem to be too much order to the madness all the time.

Pyramid song is a highlight and a fan favorite. It really makes you think. Radiohead definitely did some good by putting this in here. It’s another very surreal song, and I believe it was inspired by a dream that Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke had. It shows in the nonsensical lyrics.

I jumped in the river and what did I see?
Black-eyed angels swam with me
A moon full of stars and astral cars
All the things I used to see
All my lovers were there with me
All my past and futures
And we all went to heaven in a little row boat
There was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt

I do a lot of dreaming, and only occasionally do I remember them, but when I do, I try to write what I’m thinking down. Usually, it doesn’t come out in full coherent sentences, but a lot of times, this is the kind of thing I would write down. I’m not trying to say that this is what Thom did, but I can see how this can be traced back to a dream. It is a very drifty and dreamlike song too, and it is really trance inducing, especially when you are tired. The song is very beautiful, and the piano is just fantastic. But even more impressive is the power of the orchestra. I THINK there is a cello buried somewhere in there, but I could be wrong. The reason why the cello is great is because it has a huge presence even when your ear can’t pick it out. If it was any deeper like the bass or lighter like the viola, it would be much more easily recognizable. It is the perfect instrument for an acid trip song like this. Once again, I’m not sure that there is even a cello in here, but I’m pretty sure… It just feels like there is, you know?

Pull/Pulk Revolving Doors is just what it sounds like it is. Weird filler. It doesn’t really make any sense, and the words speak of doors, hidden and out in the open, and how people go through them. There is a little bit of filler in this album, but it isn’t nearly as interesting as the filler in Kid A, that’s for sure. You And Whose Army? Seems to be a fan favorite too. Well, I don’t want you to take that wrong, because I am definitely a fan. But I can’t see too much in it for some reason. It’s kind of a lazy strummy guitar type piece. Later on, it opens up, and I can sort of see what the point is, but it still isn’t one of my favorites.

I Might Be Wrong is the best song on the album. There was no question in my mind the first time I heard it. I for a fact that to prove that statement untrue, the rest of the album would have to pull something unbelievable, more unbelievable than this. It is one of the most played songs on my iPod, and to complement that, I have at least four live versions of it. It’s just that good. It really plugs along with the electronic flow, and the guitar part is very detailed. The entire song is very detailed, actually. The bassline also stands out to me, because it is very detailed. The lyrics are also very respectable, and I think they are about how much Thom loves his wife. It’s an extremely catchy song, and one of my favorite Radiohead songs ever. It’s just amazing.

Knives Out still follows in the steps of the rest of the album. The album definitely has it’s own distinct feeling, as opposed to the diverse Kid A. A lot of it feels like that climbing that I mentioned before. This is one of the more routine round based songs that follows the feelings very well. It’s the more accessible song on the album, because it actually features some real live guitars, and real live drums. It feels like this would play at some bittersweet moment, but what I have in my mind is more of a lush image. I’ve always thought of it representing some sort of golden sunshiney day, over a forest near an urban area.

Or this.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a really charming song, even if it is bittersweet. It is also one of the few Radiohead songs you can put on repeat, because it doesn’t really develop so much as just play through.

The climbing persists.

Next is a version of Morning Bell, labeled Amnesiac. It’s better than the Kid A version that preceded it definitely, because it is a lot more ominous (Christ, I use that word a lot, don’t I?) and features some interesting ooooing synthesizers and bells that actually make the rhythm more refined. Anyone who knows the original version from Kid A knows that it is sort of a happy/sad type of song. Well, I think this version does a better job of making the more sad and dreary parts even more sad and dreary, and the happier parts happier. A good song, and it’s better here.

Dollars and Cents is a personal favorite. It has a lot of energy, and a lot of mystique. When you hear it, you may be reminded of Pyramid Song, for whatever reason. I sort of was. I couldn’t really figure out why this wasn’t named Pyramid Song. It sounds more like an eastern tune, and it is very reminiscent of the desert. Maybe not just the desert, but also other eastern nations such as China and Mongolia. The very echoey drums and warpy guitar along with the extremely powerful full orchestra sort of help that along. The explosion of energy later on is enough to even keep people who don’t like the rest of the song interested, and it’s worth the listen for them. It’s a very weird song, but I like it a lot.

Hunting Bears is also filler, but it’s better than Pull/Pulk. It’s really just a string of interesting guitar chords, and even though it doesn’t exactly go anywhere, it is pleasant enough. I don’t know what the deal is with all of the bears in the Kid A/Amnesiac marketing schemes, but they are interesting bears indeed. I draw them in math class sometimes. The little heads. I heard someone call them “citizen insanes” once. I think that is a B-Side on the Com Lag EP, but I don’t have it. If you have ever seen those little clips that advertised the albums when they came out, there was one called “Bear Witch Project” that was just creepy as hell. Try to find that somewhere.

Like Spinning Plates is also very interesting. It doesn’t make much sense at first. You have to listen to it more than once to really understand it even a little. I heard a live version where it was played on piano, but this is almost entirely synthesizers (if not entirely), so the production is kind of interesting. It still feels like you are climbing during this one, and at this point things are getting more strange, and you can feel the end of the climbing very near. Like this is the last leg of the journey. I almost want to call this filler too, but it is very interesting, almost too interesting to be filler.

But Life In A Glasshouse is a really good conclusion to the album. There is some silence, and it feels like you sort of float through an opening, into, well, either a Glasshouse or some big city somewhere at night, with all the hustle and bustle. Trumpets, a piano, and I think a clarinet play big rolls in this song. It’s very interesting, and very relaxing. It’s not a completely resolving song, but it at least makes you feel like the rest of the album really went somewhere. I can’t really say much more.

I once heard that Thom Yorke said this album was the parallel of Kid A. And on the cover art of Kid A, the volcano that you see is where Amnesiac takes place, while Kid A is more the spectator roll. I can see why, somehow. Both albums show a kind of journey, and even though Amnesiac shows it in a slightly weaker way, it is still a real keeper. Perhaps that mouse on the translucent plain looking at the big mountain can only wonder what he is missing out on, for better or worse.