Roundhouse, London

Simon Price on Atoms for Peace: Nice grooves, Thom – shame about the moves



If you'd told the average Radiohead fan 20 years ago that their leader would one day be on stage with his hair in a scrunchy, wheeling his fist like he was at an old-skool rave, while the bassist from the Red Hot Chili Peppers gyrated next to him like an ape wrestling a rubber python, they'd have looked at you with the kind of paranoid mistrust that extended exposure to Radiohead's music engenders.

But Atoms For Peace, the supergroup formed by Yorke, Flea, producer Nigel Godrich, drummer Joey Waronker and percussionist Mauro Refosco, have made the most enjoyable music to carry Yorke's name this century. Debut album Amok is all about the polyrhythms; with hints of Brazil and Africa, underlying its glitches and bleeps.

Their unsung hero is Godrich, conceivably the least rock'n'roll person I've ever seen on a stage, his awkward body language that of a science teacher asked to demonstrate his invention on Tomorrow's World, circa 1977. At least he never tries what Yorke attempts several times: a "sexy" dance. If that mental image has you screaming "My eyes! My eyes!", imagine being there. Still, journalistic honesty compels me to report that it elicits roars of love – or even lust.

If Yorke, bobbing his head to the groove like he's fronting some abominable surfer-funk outfit on Newquay beach, looks as if he's auditioning for the Chili Peppers, then Flea looks like he's trying to forget he was ever in them – dressed head to toe in black, as if reprising his role as one of the fictional Kraftwerk doppelgangers Autobahn in The Big Lebowski.

As there is only one AFP album, tonight doubles as a Yorke solo show, with extensive extracts from The Eraser, plus UNKLE's "Rabbit in Your Headlights". And if one thing is clear, it's that the Yorke whine has one outstanding merit: it obfuscates his overrated lyrics.

Seriously, where has this man's reputation as a great intellectual force in modern music come from? "I want to eat your artichoke heart" (from "Atoms for Peace") is not clever; it's laughable. And Amok's title track, with its refrain "a penny for your thoughts my love", first recalls Marillion's "Lavender" then dares to rhyme "they're spaghetti, they possess me". Play up, Flea. Play up, Nigel. Play up, Joey and Mauro. Anything to drown out the horror.

If anyone could match Thom Yorke for a grating male voice in the 1990s, it was Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins (Wembley Arena, London ***). And, in the 21st century, Corgan is the Smashing Pumpkins, having declined to invite bassist D'arcy Wretzky and guitarist James Iha, and having since lost drummer Jimmy Chamberlin for a second time. Circumstantial evidence points to Corgan being a difficult man to be around.

Nosferatu in grey slacks, he is not a man blessed with rock-star charisma. Not that he cares what I think: "All you tarts in the media can stick it up your fuckin' ass," he petulantly snarls after revealing that he's been told he talks too much and plays too little.

The Pumpkins' style-over-substance grunge-prog, with show-off Flying V solos from new guitarist Jeff Schroeder, can become wearing, and the video screens, shaped into Aztec pyramids like a scaled-down version of a Muse show, only remind you that you could be seeing another band doing "excess" with more excellence.

And yet .... for all his charmlessness and pomposity, the wrestling entrepreneur and tea-shop owner still has his moments. And a largely thirty-something crowd will all have moments of their own, connecting one Pumpkins song or another to their own emotional baggage from the Nineties.

For me it was hearing the heartbreaking "Disarm" over a car radio in LA just after the news of Kurt Cobain's death broke. For others it might be the majestic sweep of "Tonight, Tonight" or the stage-managed angst of "Bullet With Butterfly Wings". But one doubts it'll be the superfluous cover of "Space Oddity" for anyone.

The material from 2012's overcooked Oceania album is self-consciously loaded with echoes of the past, and "The Celestials", with which he encores, is an acoustic, string-laden ballad which harks directly back to "Disarm".

Ultimately, though, you're grateful when the owner of that vintage whine finally puts a cork in it.

Critic's Choice

Anvil, Canada's valiant heavy- metal losers turned into winners by a much-loved documentary, play the Cathouse, Glasgow (Sunday); Academy 3, Manchester (Monday) and the Garage, London (Tue). Meanwhile, Luke Haines, with new album Rock and Roll Animals just released, plays the Borderline, London (Tue).


Arts and Entertainment
Loading individual letters on to an original Heidelberg printing press
Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

    Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

    Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
    Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'