To use a comparison from rock history, if I must, the combined weight of the material contained on ‘Kid A’ and ‘Amnesiac’ may have been better presented as a double album. Think back to what The Beatles did after ‘Sgt Peppers’. Well, they released ‘Magical Mystery Tour’, Radiohead could well have released their still promised b-sides and rarities set as a neat way to follow-up ‘OK Computer’ without following it up, if you see what I mean. Then release ‘Kid A’ as a double album including all of ‘Kid A’ and most of ‘Amnesiac’, if not all. You could trim a couple of these songs off the thing, namely ‘Amnesiac Morning Bell’, a slowed down and spooked version of the ‘Kid A’ ‘Morning Bell’ but rather superfluous, all the same. Um, the other one? Oh yeah, the distorted tuneless techno of ‘Pulk Pull Revolving Doors’ sounds great and scary and impressive and everything… ok, leave that one in! ‘Revolution 9’ or something, for a double album nobody would be so picky, would they? Or would they? Well, ‘The White Album’ was The Beatles ‘proper’ response to ‘Sgt Peppers’, bearing in mind ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ was originally only an EP in the UK and turned into an album by the US record label via the addition of extra tracks from singles. But anyway, enough of what this humble reviewer here believes Radiohead should have done. What’s more to the point is what they actually did do, what kind of album we have here. Well, all the songs are from the very same sessions that produced ‘Kid A’, but ‘Amnesiac’ lacks good sequencing in comparison with ‘Kid A’, coming across almost as a compilation of out-takes, which in effect, it is. Still, with ‘out-takes’ as good as either of the opening two songs, we won’t complain too much.
‘Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box’ isn’t as beautiful an opening song as ‘Everything in the right place’ which was very clever anyway, given the change in sound in Radiohead land that ‘Kid A’ presented. “Everything in the right place? Nothing is in the right fucking place” bemoaned the average techno hating fan of ‘Bends’ era Radiohead. Still, props to Radiohead for creating such a fantastic rock/techno/electronica crossover as ‘Packt Like Sardines’. One lyric, pretty much. Well, one line you can actually make out… “I’m a reasonable man, get off my case” – repeated and repeated amid the beeps and noises and funky goings on. Dig the percussion sounds! Dig, dig, dig! It sounds a little like somebody digging, too. Ah, the second song, ‘Pyramid Song’ is very nice indeed, spooky sounding with a spooky sense of time and lovely vocals and piano. Spooky is a word that is very appropriate in describing most of ‘Amensiac’, actually. It’s a dark, ominous sounding record, all in all. ‘You Are Whose Army’ is made all the more powerful by the way Thom almost mumbles the vocal, although, he’s mumbling with intent, sneering without shouting. Quietly yet powerfully protesting. So quietly he sounds like a ghost, great mixing and production here. ‘I Might Be Wrong’ is the funkiest moment of the album and almost, but not quite, straight rock music. Well, not straight at all actually, but at least easy to imagine not requiring too much machinery in order to play the thing live.
‘Knives Out’ is quickly becoming one of my very favourite Radiohead songs, adore the simple yet beautiful guitar figure, like the energy of the music over which Thom sounds to be singing at a different speed over the top, not quite fitting – and it’s a nice effect. ‘Dollars And Cents’ has a groovy bass-line, ‘Hunting Bears’ can be dropped from my proposed double album ‘Kid A’, actually, come to think of it. It’s a guitar doodle. It’s nice and everything, a weird 21st century blues instrumental of an entirely different kind, but ultimately, entirely pointless. Ah, we can drop ‘Like Spinning Plates’ as well. Just some keyboard textures ran backwards over which forwards percussion and quiet notes are played. There’s more filler on ‘Amnesiac’ than ‘Kid A’, yes. Not filler at all, but no less challenging than some of the more obscure electronic experiments, is the drunken under the ocean jazz sounds of the closing ‘Life In A Glass House’. Thom seems especially disconnected, as if his voice if floating off altogether, floating downwards I should say, given the entirely miserable yet utterly captivating feel of the piece.