Dusted Reviews

Atoms for Peace - Amok

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Atoms for Peace

Album: Amok

Label: XL

Review date: Feb. 26, 2013

Atoms for Peace - "Default"

On December 8, 1953, during his speech "Atoms for Peace," President Ike D. Eisenhower addressed a UN General Assembly thusly: "I feel impelled to speak today in a language that in a sense is new — one which I, who have spent so much of my life in the military profession, would have preferred never to use. That new language is the language of atomic warfare."

Some six decades later (February 19, 2013, to be exact), during a Reddit AMA with Atoms for Peace’s Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich, superior_taste asked: "How can you advocate that nuclear power is bad when in actuality it’s the only realistic alternative to fossil fuels and vastly greener and more sustainable? It seems like a fairly asinine position to take, especially considering modern development in breeder and thorium reactors, essentially nullifying the issues of old technology."

Ever the Socratic, Thom Yorke replied, "where you gonna put the waste guy?!!!”

To be fair, Yorke used to be more candid. In the aftermath of the GOP massacre of Tuesday, November 4, 2008, over at Radiohead repository Dead Air Space, Yorke was in a particularly celebratory mood as November 5 marked Guy Fawkes Night, brother J. Greenwood’s birthday, and as Yorke christened it, “the dawn of a new era in politics in the USA.”

To be fairer still, Thom Yorke used to make better music than the nine anemic Atoms for Peace cuts here. Apropos of the electro dōjō he’s been wont to master ever since, that night in November, he gave us a remix, too. “Harrowdown Hill,” the second single from Yorke’s ‘06 solo outing The Eraser, was where the body of ex-UN weapons inspector David Kelly showed up three years prior. A biological warfare expert with the UK’s Ministry of Defence, Kelly’s Iraq dossier had aroused suspicions regarding the actuality of Saddam Hussein’s WMDs. Not surprisingly, The Hutton Inquiry officially ruled Kelly’s death a suicide. With “Harrowdown Hill” (Tchk Logic Jump Rmx), however, Yorke offered a different take: “I humbly donate a remix…a small reminder of the dark days of Bush’s [administration].”

Ultimately, Yorke’s remake proved to be a welcome re-modeling — much, much better than anything on Amok. In fact, to this day, it’s one of the brightest examples of the places he would go untethered to the Radiohead brand. Because, let’s be honest, 2003’s Hail to the Thief was only slightly better than the Bush-cum-Blair blundering it purported to rebuke. And with King of Limbs not worth the paper that accompanied it, I, who have spent so much of my life in the Radiohead profession, had given up on Thom Yorke making any more grand statements — especially of the muso-political kind.

So, with B. Hussein Obama in the second 100 days of his own 44th, not surprisingly, things run afoul aplenty on Amok. The lead off, “Before Your Very Eyes,” is too diffident, far too subdued to say anything. It gets a bit more Afro-bravado after the break, but by then, any pang of relevance has abated. Whatever it is Yorke sees so clearly (the proliferation of nukes? … the perils of sequestration?), I miss completely. Yorke, the pundit, is gone.

Meanwhile, “Default” is probably good enough for government work, and left to play itself out, a few moments of genuine synthesis — Yorke and Godrich; Yorke and Flea; Yorke and the latter-day Manolo Badrena, himself, Mauro Refosco — prove that Thom’s trying, at least. “I made my bed / I’m lying in it,” he coos. “Ingenue,” on the other hand, is just too pretty for Yorke’s falsetto porn. Give his melodic line a full-voiced try, up from the diaphragm, and the atoms might smash together for a bona fide single. By Ultraista, perhaps.

"Such a mess / I couldn’t care less," Yorke claims on "Unless." Such ennui’s a shame, really, as it’s probably Amok’s boldest pure musical statement. It is an ominous arrangement, foreboding even, with timbres and textures we’ve not yet heard Yorke invoke. Which reminds me, given all the hype surrounding who is in this band (versus who gets heard on the record, anyways), might it be that Thom Yorke’s the weakest particle here?

It has something to do with that ol’ rock ‘n’ roll tautology, wherein a group is super only when composed of those whose music supra is superb. Certainly, The Hon’ble Thomas E. Yorke of Northamptonshire was, at one time, super. One need listen only to “Harrowdown Hill,” of course. That was albums ago, though, and I like Ike for reminding us that, in our atomic age, fusion rewards the new. Atoms for Peace could have made for a Thinking Fellers’ Coldplay, replete with Stanley Donwood cover art. Instead, we got the touring version of The Eraser.

And as for where the waste went, well, I think I know the guy. Want not, indeed.

By Logan K. Young

Read More

View all articles by Logan K. Young

Find out more about XL

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.