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The most underrated and under appreciated Radiohead album,
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This review is from: Amnesiac (Audio CD)
A lot of people, critics and fans alike, simply dismiss Amnesiac as some form of inferior B Side album to the great Kid A. No doubt, because the songs on Kid A and Amnesiac were recorded in the same sessions. This may cause one to form an negative opinion, before having heard the album, based on the assumption that Radiohead put out this album with songs not good enough for Kid A.
Having listened to both albums extensively, I honestly find that this cannot be true. There are two reasons for this: one is that (in my opinion) the music on Amnesiac is just as good if not better than that of Kid A, and secondly that Amnesiac has a very different sound to Kid A. More on both of these points.
Firstly, by 'good music', I mean here more attractive, melodic and pleasing. Obviously those are not only criteria on which music should be judged - I think Kid A is a more powerful album, and more influential/important - but I personally much prefer listening to Amnesiac. Listen to tracks like the Pyramid Song (which is simply a instant Radiohead classic), with its stunning piano chord progression and striking melody, or You And Whose Army, which progresses from a gentle - almost acoustic - beginning to a rock anthem style ending. The way that song changes at the end of the first minute I find a remarkable listening experience. The grungey guitar riff of I Might Be Wrong grabs one instantly, as does the softer but at the same time darker Knives Out. There really are a multitude of great tracks on this record; Dollars & Cents, Morning Bell/Amnesiac (which is very similar to its Kid A counterpart but more attractive) and the opener (which shares similarities with the Kid A opener Everything In Its Right Place, with infectious dark synths and similarly great lyrics - I'm a reasonable man/Get off my case), amongst the other strong songs.
In comparison to Kid A, Amnesiac holds its own musically. Admittedly Kid A has that fabulous opener and Idioteque (surely one of the most powerful and tense songs every recorded), but the riff on I Might Be Wrong is just as strong as that on The National Anthem, Like Spinning Plates is an equally strong ambient track compared to Tree Fingers, and Knives Out and The Pyramid song are (in my opinion) superior to the likes of Kid A and How to Disappear Completely.
The second reason that Amnesiac is not merely a B Side to Kid A is that the sounds of the Albums are very different. Kid A is a lot more aggressive, more angry, more unsettled (and unsettling). That sound is characterized by the twitchy beats on The National Anthem or Idioteque, or the downright weird Kid A. Amnesiac I find to be softer, more accessible. I don't understand why some say that Amnesiac is even more difficult than Kid A, it really isn't. Many of the songs are driven by guitars or pianos, there isn't as much weird electronica (not to say I don't like weird electronica but it tends to be more challenging) - pulk revolving doors being the exception there.
No, Amnesiac stands very successfully as an individual album, the songs flow together nicely to create a remarkable listening experience.
One thing is for sure, if you are getting in to Radiohead, you have probably heard OK Computer, In Rainbows, The Bends or Kid A. The next step is Amnesiac, a record which deserves similar (perhaps not quite as much) recognition as those three. Don't be put off by the dismissiveness of other critics, or indeed the frankly wrong suggestion that amnesiac is less accessible than Kid A. Give it a listen.