Album of the week
Album review: Atoms for Peace, Amok (XL)
Thom Yorke: Samey sounds spoil Radiohead frontman’s debut album with supergroup
While it generally repays interest to follow what Thom Yorke's getting up to, that interest has been getting harder to sustain recently. I know I'm not the only one who failed to be lured back to The King of Limbs as much as its predecessors, and I found last year's live show rather more impressive than enjoyable. And sadly, that trajectory continues with Amok, the first release from Atoms for Peace, the pick-up band assembled to play material from his solo album The Eraser, a track from which furnished the band name.
Despite the different line-up – with bassist Flea, drummer Joey Waronker, percussionist Mauro Refosco and producer Nigel Godrich alongside Yorke – stylistically it's a fairly straight extension of the itchy electro grooves of The King of Limbs, with the melodies just as difficult to trace among the clamour of hyperactive rhythm programmes, puttering hi-hats, gated twitch-samples, pulsing bass and cloudy synth pads. Sometimes, as on opener "Before Your Very Eyes", the various elements don't seem to cohere initially, remaining discrete with only Yorke's falsetto unifying them.
But there's a homogeneity to the album's sound as a whole, with songs often differentiated by only a single distinctive sound: the gentle African-style guitar chording on "Before Your Very Eyes", the marimba progression in "Dropped", the watery guitar figure of "Stuck Together Pieces".
Otherwise, the overall impression is of a music caught between busy, mechanistic rhythm programmes and more abstract instrumental designs, with pale, etiolated melodies carried by Yorke's gossamer vocals, which often hover on the very edge of audibility.
Such phrases as one can make out suggest a mingling of clichés – "The will is strong but the flesh is weak", "Judge, jury and executioner" – with the kind of epigrammatic phrasing that leaves plenty of room for interpretation, notably the stream-of-consciousness of "Reverse Running".
It's all typically hard work to decipher, both lyrically and musically, but unlike Yorke's earlier endeavours with Radiohead, this time I'm rather less convinced that it's going to be worth the effort. It's certainly less fun.
Download: Before Your Very Eyes; Default
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Arts & Ents blogs
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- 2 Margaret Thatcher 'expressed fears of Asian rising' at Anglo-Irish summit in 1984
- 3 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 4 The Unluckiest People of the Year 2014 (and one very unlucky giraffe)
- 5 Magna Carta will be 800 years old next year – the perfect reminder of the rights and freedoms we must hold dear
Downton Abbey Christmas special 2014, review: Love is everywhere, actually
The Boy in the Dress, TV review: David Walliams' Boxing Day treat is a celebration of being different
Vagina canoe artist defends herself over ‘obscenity’ charges
The Interview film review: Controversial gross-out satire is broad, bawdy and bad - but undeniably entertaining
Doctor Who Christmas special, review: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever