More song-driven and acoustic than Kid A
, Radiohead's Amnesiac
isn't quite "Kid B," but it is unquestionably cut from the same far-out cloth, as the band revels in fascinating quirks and abject nihilism. It's also the first time in Radiohead's career that a new record hasn't meant a complete shift in artistic priorities. Surely, however, regardless of which was released first, they both deserve recognition; after all, Amnesiac
, like Kid A
, is an amazing piece of work.
Only lightly augmented with electronics, songs like "You and Whose Army?" and "I Might Be Wrong" almost sound like they came from a typical five-piece rock band. You may even believe the band still employs a guitarist after hearing Jonny Greenwood's wistful surf-guitar lead on "Knives Out" or his subtle but noticeable contributions to the anticapitalist rant "Dollars and Cents." But inevitably, the band continually shifts gears, moving into Boards of Canada territory on "Like Spinning Plates" and delivering dark, bass-laden oddities like "Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors," a fuzzed-out piece of avant-garde techno that could just as easily be on an Autechre or Aphex Twin record. The song's half-sung, half-spoken vocal was laid down by either a heavily distorted Thom Yorke or, just perhaps, a loquacious microwave oven. Either way, the music always has momentum, regardless of whether propelled by man or appliance. Radiohead as a band understand how to make rock interesting again, and in the end, that's all they set out to do when they recorded Amnesiac, as well as Kid A. It's more than can be said for the bad frat-punk, teen-pop and soulless techno that currently rules the charts, and for that alone, Radiohead's astonishing exploration of 21st-century anguish deserves credit. --Matthew Cooke