in Review

Atoms for Peace – Amok

It’s been out for awhile, but we couldn’t let this one slip under the radar. Amok is the debut album from “supergroup” Atoms for Peace, aka Thom Yorke’s second solo album. I say this not only for the record’s striking resemblance to Yorke’s 2006 solo debut The Eraser but also it’s lack of humans. Yorke has said time and time again that if he had to choose he’d make music with a computer over real instruments. This ideology appears to be in effect as I have trouble making out what the other non-computer members of the band are doing. Every once in awhile you get that funky Flea bass line, but most of the time it sounds like the bad guy from Tron is doing most of the heavy lifting.

The members of Atmos for Peace are: Thom Yorke (vocals/guitar/keyboards/pretty much everything), Flea (bass), Nigel Godrich (Programming, meaning he’s really just the producer), studio musician Joey Waronker (drums), and Chili Pepper’s collaborator Mario Refosco (percussion). The album begins with “Before Your Very Eyes” one of the few examples on Amok of a whole band playing together. The results are a slightly funky, progressive jam complete with Yorke’s trademark ghostly vocals. This is followed by “Default” one of my favorites and a more appropriate representation of this album. Though “Where’s the band?” (Say it like Clara Peller) is my only question. I don’t hear anyone but synths, beat machines and Yorke. Do I have a problem with that? Yes and no.

The music doesn’t bother me on Amok, quite the contrary. My problem is that this was advertised as a collaboration when it really isn’t. That aside, Atoms for Peace is still a stark and atmospheric record that occupies a fascinatingly strange soundspace. Most importantly, it should appease both fans of Yorke’s solo music and fans of Radiohead. They probably wont fall head over heels for it, but they’ll appreciate it’s eerie beauty and creeping beats. I’m quite partial to “Judge, Jury and Executioner”, the track I could most imagine being a Radiohead song.

At times I feel like Amok is just Thom Yorke dickin’ around, but the more i listen the more it grows on me. There’s never a right way to approach Yorke’s music, you just have to dive right in and either sink or swim.

Favorite Tracks: “Default,” “Dropped,” “Judge, Jury and Executioner”