Friday, February 22, 2013

Atoms for Peace - Amok

I think I've been pretty upfront about my dislike for the King of Limbs but I have another confession: I didn't really like Thom Yorke's solo record the Eraser either. There was something so dour, self conscious and predictable about it that I could never really embrace (Black Swan excluded). When I say predictable, it sounded exactly like I imagined a Thom Yorke record would sound before I'd even heard it. They was nothing revelatory but a celebration of his wanton obscurist tendencies - why one of the best singers and lyricists of the last twenty years seems to want to not sing and make the words incomprehensible is beyond me. I just want to sit him down and have a cup of tea and have a frank discussion about his attitude. Happily, Amok is infinitely more pleasurable than either the Eraser or Limbs.

While the dreadfully named Atoms for Peace are technically a band, there is no way to confuse this as anything other than a Thom Yorke record. However, the band approach works as there is a lot more warmth here than on the Eraser. While I have a general disdain for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Flea makes Yorke's robotic bass soulful. Unfortunately, drummer Joey Waronker might as well be a drum machine as his playing in lost in the general cacophony of drum patterns. Whatever the case, this album is fun to listen to and is crammed with sonic peculiarity, roaming basslines and soaring choruses. The static clatter of Default (my favourite) is mesmerizing as is the spaced out but perfect chorus while the driving bass of Stuck Together Pieces is seemingly underpinned by somepne flipping the pages of a book made of tin. Stoners rejoice and get your headphones out, this record is for you!

As for lyrics, who knows? Yorke insists on mumbling through the songs which would make my 5th grade speech therapist slap him but it is only mildly distracting. Apparently most of this music was conceived after a marathon bender listening to Fela Kuti and there are elements here but if true, I think the greatest element is that this album moves with purpose and soul. It sounds like computer music for sure but it also sounds human. I have to admit I went in thinking I was going to dislike it but I am ecstatic to report that this is a great album happily bridging the divide between my Radiohead fanboyism and Yorke's love of anti-melody. Sure, Atoms for Peace is the suckiest name I've heard for a while but this record deserves to be on your record shelf. It's already on mine.


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