To your average listener, the differences between Amok and some of the more recent Radiohead stuff aren’t exactly striking. If The King of Limbs was the sound of Thom Yorke falling asleep for 40 minutes in a Chipotle (and it was), then Amok is Yorke slowly waking up, realizing his surroundings have changed a little and there’s burrito on his face.
After all, 40% of the Atoms lineup (Yorke, Nigel Godrich) hails directly from Radiohead. Add in longtime RHCP bassist Flea, Beck/R.E.M. drummer Joey Waronker, and Brazilian percussionist Mauro Refosco, and you have the rest. It’s ridiculous to assume that Amok is simply the catalyst for a ROCK-FUNK project, because it’s head-scratchingly difficult to apply classical genre labels to this stuff, which can best be described as “Yorkie”.
More than anything else, Atoms for Peace comes off as a vehicle for Thom Yorke to express himself in slightly different ways than Radiohead allowed him to. Sure, Flea and the other guys are technically there, but they certainly don’t occupy the spotlight in the same ways as Yorke.
Amok is one of those albums that, like TKOL, requires about 400 listens before formulating any sort of solid opinion. It’s bizarre and ethereal but surprisingly stable; rich textures make for new discoveries on each listen and inventive instrumentation is everywhere. From the faucet-drip sampling of “Ingenue” to the percussive clinky-glasses of “Unless” and the skitters and buzzes in between, everything is fair game on Amok; EVERYTING ISS MEWSICK.
Despite the lack of groundedness or what we humans call “hooks,” Amok’s grooves worm their way slowly into your head and you’ll find yourself oh I don’t know trying to replicate the guitar line to “Before Your Very Eyes…” out loud every day for a week. By your 401st listen you’ll have the sonic pathways traced into your memory and your listening experience will be all the more rewarding.
Amok is the definition of good headphone music; an album whose specific nuances are just as important as its general ambience. It’s another solid addition to Yorke’s career trajectory, and while it’s not quite Radiohead, it’s very good. Give it a spin or 400.
I hate to do this again, but it’s another “whole album not just songs” deal. Sue me.