Parlophone – 2001 – 44 minutes
Only 9 months on from the highly divisive 'Kid A', Radiohead look set to divide fans further with their latest release, 'Amnesiac'. And considering that both albums have been cut from the same cloth, it is safe to say that if you liked 'Kid A', you'll like this. But if you didn't...
From opener 'Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box', it becomes abundantly clear that Amnesiac is more Kid A than Ok. Its sombre techno intro develops into a cacophony of sounds that may justify Radiohead's wish to push the boundaries, yet remains highly taxing on the listener. Singer Thom Yorke seems to have envisaged this response, with his refrain of "get off my case" looming large throughout the song.
'Pyramid Song', one of the bleakest that the band have ever written, evokes a disturbing vista of suicide, with its plateau of "black-eyed angels": bleak but solid.
After the atrocious 'Pull Pulk Revolving Doors', 'You And Whose Army?' provides one of the few treats of Amnesiac. After a shaky start, the song brightens considerably into a finale where the trusty trio of pianos, drums and bass combines with a soaring vocal chorus for a reminder of how good this band can be. Buried at the end of what would have been the old side A, is another example of Radiohead's collective genius. 'Knives Out' provides the finest Thom Yorke vocal of this album, with a reminder that Radiohead can still make guitars sound like no other band can.
Then, just as your hopes have been raised considerably, Radiohead recoil into their cocoon of self-indulgent experimentation. 'Morning Bell' didn't work on Kid A and it is equally de trop here. 'Like Spinning Plates' sounds like its title (awful) while the funeral march of 'Life In A Glasshouse' left me with the same taste as I had at the close of Kid A: disappointed.
Radiohead are sadists. Kid A intimated this, and Amnesiac confirms it. They can still deliver the goods ('Knives Out', 'You And Whose Army?') and while they deserve credit for following their muse, they also deserve evil looks for denying us the treasures which they can still produce. The passing of time may well prove 'Kid A' and 'Amnesiac' to be the most influential of Radiohead's albums. But I suspect that if that happens, like many so-called 'seminal greats', they will be name-checked more than listened to.
Tracklisting: Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box – Pyramid Song – Pull Pulk Revolving Doors – You And Whose Army? – I Might Be Wrong – Knives Out – The Morning Bell Amnesiac – Dollars & Cents – Hunting Bears – Like Spinning Plates – Life In A Glasshouse