on 30 September 2001
Reviewers should probably start by admitting their bias, and mine is that I loved Kid A. Having I enjoyed Radiohead since Creep and The Bends, I realised with OK Computer that this was not a band content to musically stand still. All of the major artists like The Beatles,Dylan,Bowie etc.have been driven by the urge to explore and, despite the inevitable clunker, emerged stronger for it. And, inevitably, their old fans attacked them for it. I find Amnesiac to be a far more melodically accessible album than Kid A, but it only works if you're not expecting more of the stadium rock anthems of yore. Certainly, it's not an album for everyone, but compared to the later work of,say, Autechre or Squarepusher it's actually rather user-friendly given its ambitions. I left one star off because I feel the best work of Radiohead is still to come. But complaining that it doesn't all sound like My Iron Lung is like complaining that I Am The Walrus isn't as good as Please Please Me.
on 11 December 2006
Pulk/pull Revolving Doors summed this album up when I first heard it. Dark, dense, atonal, full of dissonance. I thought, "Well let's skip this and put it down to "uptheirownbacksideness"". I'd always considered this album started at "I Might Be Wrong" and the second part of this album welded on to the first five tracks of Kid A would have been a better move.
However, having put together quite a few playlists on the old i-pod, I noticed that I was always including far more tracks from Amnesiac than any of the other albums. Recently therefore I thought it might be worth playing the whole album through one more time. This was after not listening to any Radiohead at all for quite some time.
And there are revolving doors.
There are doors that open by themselves.
There are sliding doors and there are secret doors.
There are doors that lock and doors that don't.
There are doors that let you in and out but never exit.
But there are trap doors that you can't come back from."
- Pulk/pull Revolving Doors
I couldn't put it better myself. I seem to have slipped through that trap door that you can't come back from. This is simply an astonishing piece of work coming from the limitations of a five member rock group.
There are legions of music lovers who put The Bends and OK Computer in their top ten. There are lesser numbers who recognise Kid A as the improvement that it is. But I have a feeling in years to come that more and more will unlock the mechanisms in this little puzzle, and recognise "their secret album" for what it is. Their masterpiece.
on 17 December 2001
Kid A, Radiohead`s 4th album and Amnesiac`s predecessor, took the music world by surprise with a completely different change of direction. Many consider it a mistake for a band who made an album as good as OK Computer to try something new, but in my opinion, Kid A is Radiohead`s best album to date. Amnesiac was recorded at the same time as Kid A, but has a more conventional feel about it, featuring more guitar and more audible vocals than Kid A.
The album kicks off brilliantly with "Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box", a slight reminicant of Kid A highlight, "Idioteque", but nothing can quite prepare you for what follows. "Pyramid Song" is easily the most gorgeous, original single released this year, and is definately one of Amnesiac`s highlights. As it all quietens down after it`s stunning, euphoric climax, "Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors" takes you by surprise with it`s aggresive intro, and leads into Yorke`s incredibley distorted vocals describing different types of doors. It`s pretty hard work on first listen, but after listening to the whole album for about the third time, everything begins to make sense.
After the angry, and slightly disturbing "Pulk", Anti-Blair rant "You And Whose Army" is perfect to lighten the mood. It builds from a beautifully serene beginning into a powerful, "Karma Police"-style climax. Third single "I Might Be Wrong" follows, opening with an impossibly catchy guitar loop, leading into Yorke`s (again) distorted vocals, before ending with a slightly quieter peice of music, which, apart from the fact that it also features guitar, seems somewhat unrelated to the song it follows.
"Knives Out" comes next, opening with Jonny`s haunting guitar riff, before Yorke goes off on one, singing about dead mice and drowning dogs. Although this is pleasent enough, it is by no means one of the best songs here. It starts as it means to go on, and features no real musical development, unlike the track it is frequently compared with, the brilliant "Paranoid Android". This is followed by a remix of the Kid A classic, "Morning Bell", here retitled "Morning Bell/Amnesiac", and whilst being perfectly listenable is not a patch on the original. It is stripped of the drum rolls and keyboards, and the "round and round and round.." refrain is not nearly as effective here.
Through the bass-lead "Dollars And Cents", and the brilliant (but frequently slated) intrumental "Hunting Bears", featuring mainly Jonny and/or Ed mucking about with a delay pedal, the album reaches it`s penultimate track, the stunning "Like Spinning Plates", probably the most experimental track here (apart from Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors). But no matter how good the album has been so far, the album finishes with the absolutely breath-taking finale, "Life In A Glasshouse". It features jazz veteran Humphrey Lyttleton and his band, and is without doubt the best song here, and maybe even the best track to come out of the Kid A/Amnesiac sessions.
This undoubtedly brilliant album is absolutely essential for any Radiohead fan, or then again, any fan of decent music, music with a difference, a major rock band making music that demand, but greatly rewards a bit of patience from the listener. But no matter how good Amnesiac is, it still doesn`t meet the impossibly high standard set by Kid A, which is in my opinion the greatest album of all time. But, nevertheless, this is fantastic. Buy it now.
on 18 May 2006
The popular misconception of this album is that it's just made up of Kid A cast-offs. But that is simply not the case. Many consider this radioheads finest body of work even though its not as critically acclaimed as Kid A.
Personally this is my favourite Radiohead longplayer. Pyramid Song, You And Whose Army?, I Might Be Wrong, Like Spinning Plates and Life In A Glasshouse being particular highlights..
The album feels more listenable and complete than Kid A, while still offerring some great electro-experimental moments- the industrially tinged Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors being one of my favourites.
If you like Kid A or Hail To The Theif you need this recording. ignore whatever is said about it.
And if you like this - i highly recommend I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings. For a particularly heart-felt rendition of Like Spinning Plates and stunning bside 'True Love Waits'
on 17 June 2007
Apparently largely recorded during the same sessions as Kid A, and released only a year later, it has always been hard to divorce Amesiac from its predecessor and look at it on its own terms. It was suggested at the time - and repeated in the Amazon review - that this was slightly more commercial sounding than Kid A, but not to my ears. Listening to it now, it is a less consistent but more challenging album - funereal and dirge-like, 'fat and dark' as the band coined it. The pure synths of 'Everything in its right place' and 'Kid A' have been replaced by jittery, glitchy textures, jazzy rythmns, and lots of spidery, nervous guitar. Its a haunted, paranoid album, if anything less immediate than 'Kid A' and more demanding.
'Packt Like Sardines In A Crushed Tin Box' is an inauspicious opener, with Thom Yorke singing "I'm a reasonable man get off my case" like an automaton over gloomy electro. The inertia and resignation of this beginning sets an Orwellian tone, while the ethereal 'Pyramid Song' explores the more sublime and apocalyptic. One of their greatest songs, the shiver-inducing lyrics are rich with imagery: "Jumped in the river and what did I see? Black-eyed angels swam with me ... 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". A companion piece to 'How to Disappear Completely' and, later, 'Sail to Moon', no-one else write songs quite this singular in mood, and as strikingly visual. The power of this song is slightly offset by the jarring abstraction of 'Pulk/pull Revolving Doors', which glitches and flutters like a butterfly caught in a typewriter, but feels emotionally frigid.
'You And Whose Army' redresses the balance slighty with its anthemic piano ballad and dizzying crescendo. The Blair-baiting lyrics, "Come on if you think. You can take us all on ... you and your chronies", recall that of the not-dissimilar 'Karma Police'. It's possibly the album's most conventional track, but still one of its best. 'I Might Be Wrong' is a totally new direction for Radiohead, based around a propulsive (even danceable), angular guitar loop, with Thom's lyrics pushed to the back of the mix. It is a surprisingly effective maneouver, giving Yorke's lyrics a nostalgic, less-histrionic feel: "Let's go down the waterfall, Have ourselves a good time, It's nothing at all ...Nothing at all". Moreover, the little breakdown at the end is superb.
I have heard 'Knives Out' compared to The Smiths, but there is none of Johnny Marr's jaunty playing on this oppressive single. Its a gloom-laden affair that Yorke referred to as "about cannibalism", but more prosaically about a father walking out on a family. 'Morning Bell/Amnesiac' is an unnecessary remix (of sorts) of the superior track of the same name from 'Kid A'. When I originally bought 'Amnesiac' I felt that this superfluous inclusion disrupted the flow of the album and gave it the nasty aftertaste of a 'Kid A' outtakes compilation. While I know longer feel this, the inclusion still irks. 'Dollars And Cents' is monolithic in its foreboding - dark, cavernous and opaque; while 'Hunting Bears' is two minutes of black, spidery guitar that serves as a reprise for 'I might be Wrong'. 'Like Spinning Plates' is all IDM and backwards effects, borrowing heavily (but successfully) from the Warp roster, while 'Life In A Glasshouse' is like a drunken mariachi funeral, Tom Waits-meets-Malcome Lowry. The final effect is one of unease and malaise, 'fat and dark' indeed, but still lightyears ahead of most contemporary bands.
on 12 March 2013
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.
"Kid A" and "Amnesiac" are largely the two sides of the same coin. Written and recorded at the same time, the two albums are the twins of the same musical pregnancy, seperated and left to live their own lives. "Amnesiac" suffers slightly from being the younger brother - the perception being it is made of out-takes and not very good songs. This is nonsense.
The two albums really are part of the same whole and should be seen only as companion pieces, not seperate entities. One could argue that each should have different selections and running orders, that the records are in a way, slightly schizophrenic, split personalities that would've benefit from seperation into two distinct stories, and you would be right. But they are in themselves, both, valid artistic statements with no shortage of integrity or vision.
What is truly baffling is the bonus tracks are, once again, shattered into pieces and fragmented out. The concert that appends "Kid A" and "Amnesiac" is a complete, and passionate one hour from French television after the release of the second album. Nonetheless, the concert is broken into two parts, and the songs divided into their parent albums. Instead of a Radiohead concert, you get a random assortment of songs lacking any cohesion. And since it was broadcast on French Television, you might expect the television broadcast on the DVD that accompanies them.... Well, you'd be wrong. The callous and heathen mutilation of the material is lacking in even a moments thought.
Not only that, but the bonus tracks are frankly, very incomplete, and are presented without a moments thought as to how they may sound when listened to as a complete experience.
The shows they are taken from are mutilated, cut to pieces, kids cut in half, torn apart by demons, and abandoned as roadkill with no care. If these releases are EMI's funeral farewell to Radiohead, theyc ould at least bury the records with dignity instead of leaving the corpse in the road.
The 10 song DVD that accompanies "Amnesiac" is servicable, but again, there's so much space unused, and the whole of that Paris concert that is licensed - and available spread across the two CD's in bits - still remains in a vault visually. What a waste. How these can be regarded as bonus editions when they are assembled with no artistry, no coherency, and no consideration is fairly incomprehensible.
This is the sound of a slapdash, half-bothered attempt to put together some vague appetisers to fool the majority of the public and assembled without any consideration for either what is actually available or what makes any form of musical or artistic sense, validity, or cohesion. The sound of a goal being missed as administrators devalue the art.
Sure, it's a fairly hefty bonus package and assembled with some decency, but it is, by any standard, an incomplete package assembled with no thought for what could provide a truly outstanding release. Why be great, when you can be good? Must try harder.
on 13 June 2001
If you read many of the scathing reviews of this album beware, this is radiohead we are talikng about. Having set themselves very high targets with Ok Computer and Kid A its very hard to judge in context how good this album is. But, i can safely say its better than what any other band could produce and is really very very good, any fan of innovative rock music must have this album.
Packt like sardines, the opening track combines warm synths and a funky electroica feel. Another outstanding opener and is reminiscent of Everthing in its right place and idioteque.
Track two as with most radiohead albums is the best (pyramid song). It is a contender for the best radiohead song since Ok Computer. It has an incredibly difficult time signiture but the moody pianos and strings make it unforgettable. But most importantly, it has the most inspiring thing in music, a radiohead climax. Absolutely amazingly fantastic.
Track three (Pulk/pull revolving doors) is in a word - weird. Don't just leave it out but know that this is very hard to listen to all the way through simply because the sounds are so coarse.
Number 4, You and whose army? best demonstrates the diversity of the album. It is very old fashioned. At the start its just acoustic guitar and thom which sounds as good as ever. It builds into a nice climax with the whole band joining in. It's quite a nice short and simple piece.
Track five "I might be wrong" is very funky with a very cool riff and good tempo. Just as you think its gone on for a bit too long it stops and out of nowhere comes thoms bird like voice and a beautifully harmonic ending. One of the most beautiful moments on the album.
Track 6 is "Knives out" and it is simply an outstanding song. It is the basic three guitars, bass and drums and is reminiscent of Street spirit. It is very easily to listen to and probably the second best song after Pyramid song.
Next is a remake of Morning bell, one of the best from Kid A. This version doesent quite live up to its sister-song due to a lack of the climactical ending but is just as eerie and frightening.
The next song is "Dollars and cents" and is another brilliant song. It has a nice build up to the point of multiple thom's voices working incredibly together. It has a very cool bass riff which isn't too repetitive and still keeps the electroic and experimental feel.
Track 9 is the short instrumental "Hunting bears" Like Treefingers from Kid A this is hard to listen to all the way through. It is very slow and repetitive at the start but then gets really good towards the end when the harmonies kick in.
Next is like spinning plates and is absolutely fantastic. Again it has a diffucult beginning with sounds reminiscent of Pulk/pull, because of this people don't really listen and it is the most underated song on the album. Towards the end beautifully soft keyboards with amazing harmonies work prefectly with thom's amazing voice. Truely fantastic, dont let the beginning put you off.
The last but by no means least is "Life in a glass house" a absolutely cracking new orleons funeral march style song but with a bit of radiohead angst thrown in. This is the third best song on the album, a more traditional style and very emotional. A fitting ending to an amazing album.
Every Radiohead album i've heard, ive not liked straight away. It always takes a while for you to realise just how good it is. I used to think Kid A was too weird and disjointed when i first heard it, now i think it is the most amazingly flowing masterpiece of music since Ok Computer.
Some of the songs don't seem as good as others on the first listen but perceviere and they will all join together and flow effortlessly to form one beautiful album.
Just for Pyramid song it should get five stars, just for the fact it has many outstanding songs it should get five stars, but im giving five stars cos i know as i listen, it will get better and better and better.
on 4 June 2001
If "OK Computer" was hard to follow up, "Kid A" was perhaps even harder - in the move from the former album to the latter they'd created a cultural short-hand for mainstream-to-avant-garde artiness, moving away from the sheer utter genius of "OK Computer" to the agonising introspection of "Kid A". Listening to "Amnesiac" you realise Radiohead have created an album better than "Kid A", full of better songs and slightly toned-down electronica.
"Packt Liked Sardines", "Pyramid Song", "You and Whose Army", "I Might Be Wrong", "Knives Out", "Life in a Glasshouse" - these are all stone-cold classics, rivalling anything they've done. "You and Whose Army" in particular seems brilliant to me - the funniest and most beautiful anti-Blair song likely ever to be written, with a simply stunning climax that had be out in goosepimples on a first listen. (There remain a few songs I haven't taken a fancy to - "Pull/Pulk" especially - but that's only to be expected in any album.)
Great bands - and there have only been a few (the Beatles and Pink Floyd spring to mind) - manage, successfully, to alter and develop their range over the course of their albums. Radiohead are beginning to join that select group. Their body of work is now more impressive than more or less any other band around (perhaps only U2 and REM challenge them). You can put any of their CDs on and hear a development in style, but the same beautiful content. Listening to "Kid A" now, an album which caused remarkable upheaval amongst critics and fans, it begins to sound just part of an evolution, it begins to sound normal. "Amnesiac" gives us the other (perhaps more palatable) half of the "Kid A" sessions, but looks forward to a further movement into new territory. (If there are some Radiohead theorisers out there, they can discuss how "Amnesiac" reworks "Kid A", with its own "Morning Bell", its own (better) instrumental, even references to some of the sound effects (eg the heaven-like ending of "Kid A").) Let's hope and pray that Radiohead's new direction is as fruitful and replayable as this.
on 13 February 2002
Initially, it did take a few listens. And I was excited by some of the direction changes (even from Kid A), but it waned a little after the first 40 or 50 listens.
Then I heard "Pyramid Song" again, out of the blue, and this prompted another few listens. I saw them live in Belfast last year, also in Dublin the year before, and was blown away of course.
The problem is that a lot of "Amnesiac" benefits from a rethink, a live airing; the urbane digitized production techniques rendering some tracks flat as a pancake. "Like Spinning Plates" and "You And Whose Army" are shining lights played live, as is "Dollars & Cents". The intention of "Hunting Bears" I think, is edge and menace; only half of this intent comes across on record.
Although I get the theme of the album - a framented sense of the past desparately being pieced together in the present - and this is executed excellently, through an unsettling and disjointed listen, that feels incomplete when it ends, a little more space would benefit it's lasting appeal; a little more length, too.
It sounds unfinished, but I guess that's the point.