After over a year of hints, it is here. Despite the addition of some unexpected and some unsurprising members to the lineup (put Flea in the former camp, Nigel Godrich the latter), this full-band effort is best seen as a continuation of Thom Yorke’s earlier solo effort The Eraserrather than an entirely new venture. It occupies the same glitchy electronic territory, even possessing similar apocalyptic cover art by Stanley Donwood.
Although boasting a fuller roster, as opposed to the bedroom-sequestered computing ofEraser, none of the strange intimacy and loneliness is lost. Songs draw you in and push you away simultaneously. Highly synthetic-sounding drum beats click and clatter under occasionally lush, occasionally sparse synth and guitar fiddling. This is an album for solid headphones, required to appreciate all the subtle intricacies; Yorke’s eye for textural detail is keen as ever.
While Flea’s restraint in avoiding slap-bass is to be applauded, overall his bass additions aren’t distinctive enough to separate him from sounding like a session bassist. This unfortunately applies across the board; what we hear are the other members’ interpretations of the laptop tracks Yorke wrote, and none really put their own mark on proceedings. This is still very much the Thom Yorke show, however, in interviews he is at pains to deny that characterisation.
Despite this failure to really push the envelope, in his continued experiments in electronica through more substantial input from others, Amok is a fantastic album. Let it truly get under your skin and it becomes all the more rewarding.
Words: Sam Coe