Atoms For Peace

XL, 2013

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


One of the best Radiohead moments of the last 10 years comes in the middle of “2+2=5,” the leadoff track from Hail To The Thief. The verses give way a haunting, gloomy bridge section with only some guitar noodling and Thom Yorke's keening wail, and then he shouts the word "because" and the band bursts through in full bloom while Yorke sings over top. It's dramatic and brilliant.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Unfortunately, little of that spirit or sound is found on Yorke's newest solo album, Amok. The Radiohead frontman formed a supergroup a few years back with Flea (of the Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Joey Waronker on drums in order to play songs from his solo disc Eraser, and that formed into the side project Atoms For Peace (one of the songs on Eraser). Instead of Flea kicking things up a notch – and a Radiohead/funk hybrid would have made for a good time – Yorke instead brings Flea down to his dull electronic level, completely ruining this disc.

Essentially, Amok is the same chilly synthetic song written nine different ways, with only subtle changes in mood and guitar tone to differentiate the tracks. The basic tracks are all vaguely electronic and rarely settle into a comfortable groove, and although Yorke's guitars (mostly acoustic) and array of voices (including ghostly backup voices) are impressive, they are rarely compelling. This is particularly offensive to Flea; without reading the liner notes, you won't know it's him.

Yorke seems more interest”d in creating moods and sounds this time out, playing with textures on songs like “Dropped,” the comfortable fireplace electronica of "Stuck Together Pieces" and the skittery "Unless,” and so his lyrics, when you can make them out, tend to be cliches or meaningless fragments. Worse, without a true emphasis on melody, none of the songs are memorable – just one guitar hook, one memorable beat, one killer bass line would go a long way toward improving these sonic sculptures.

Obviously, Yorke is a talented songwriter, but Atoms is far easier to admire than to love, a side project that goes nowhere and is hardly worth the investment of time or energy to figure it out.

Rating: D+

User Rating: B-



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