After roughly four years since its formation, Radiohead guitarist Thom Yorke’s newest side project, Atoms for Peace, has finally dropped its first full-length record. It’s a tedious job to write about Yorke in a fashion that doesn’t contextualize him as Radiohead, but to be completely honest – and arguably clichÃ© – “Amok” is a concentrated version of Radiohead’s 2007 release “In Rainbows.”
Everything Yorke produces is tainted with a breath of Radiohead. As such, Atoms for Peace’s first album is close to the nest of Yorke’s most recognizable project.
Yorke’s characteristic vocals aside, the intricate playfulness of each song’s meter (“Judge, Jury and Executioner,”) the elaborate polyrhythms from the band’s percussion sections (“Reverse Running”) and the cave-like atmosphere of the record (“Before Your Very Eyes…”) all fall in line with that synthesized “In Rainbows'” core.
This really should not be too surprising. After all, longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich is in the band. However, if we want to discuss the great strides artists take from time to time that might alter listeners’ perceptions, we ought to talk about how Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea, whose real name is Michael Balzary, is thumbing his part in Atoms for Peace. RHCP has always been a bit funky, I suppose. Regardless, Flea having a role in this texture, most prominently on “Stuck Together Pieces,” places me beside myself. Although the bass is not full front and center on the record, I applaud him.
“Amok” spits out mostly old ideas, but there is a quality of the record that reflects some, if little, dynamism in Yorke’s work. During this band’s early days in 2010, it went on a tour with electronic musician/synth god Flying Lotus as its opener. That tour must have had at least a miniscule amount of influence on Atoms for Peace. Outside of the album’s tendency to reminisce about Yorke’s past records, the synthesizer does have a vibrant timbre on “Amok,” the song. “Ingenue,” “Default” and the background melodies of “Unless” follow suit.
“Amok” is going to be perceived as a great record, mostly because it is crafted by the genius of Yorke, who seems incapable of producing anything less than stellar to his numerous starry-eyed fans. Rightly so, “Amok” is solid.
However, in that respect, “Amok” is inherently flawed. It is a side project of Yorke’s, and considering the quality of Yorke’s repertoire with Radiohead, this record will not live up to his other releases. Not to mention, Yorke is so familiar a voice that it’s tough for “Amok” to be a uniquely established record. Atoms for Peace sounds similar to Radiohead as we understand Radiohead’s sound currently, and has failed to discern itself.