The ex-Smith proves his greatness on a spiky live album
Atoms For Peace - 'Amok'
Thom Yorke plus A-list muso mates make high-concept bromance album while wasted. Should be shit, but it’s not
Atoms For Peace (formed to bring Yorke’s 2006 solo project ‘The Eraser’ to life onstage, and completed by Nigel ‘sixth member of Radiohead’ Godrich, Beck and REM drummer Joey Waronker and Brazilian percussionist Mauro Refosco) is that most delicious of prospects: a vanity project where everybody stands to lose. But anyone who’s seen The Avengers will know that when you stack a bunch of ill-suited superheroes together against insurmountable odds, they usually prevail. ‘Amok’ is good.
Nobody will be surprised that the album’s fairly predictable premise is: ‘Let’s see what happens when you try to make electronic music sound organic’. It’s a premise lesser musicians have often bored people with. Yet the easy chemistry between everyone on ‘Amok’ means that more often than not the record is beautiful. Latter-period Radiohead sounds like a bunch of gifted technicians awkwardly trying to outdo each other. The best bits here sound fluid and relaxed.
Of the ‘proper’ songs, ‘Judge, Jury And Executioner’ recalls the skittishness of Radiohead’s ‘Lotus Flower’, but does it better, while ‘Default’ is very nearly equal to the brilliant ‘Harrowdown Hill’ from ‘The Eraser’. Intriguingly, all the band members shine on their own particular bit. ‘Dropped’ sees Refosco take Afrobeat rhythms head-on. The bouncing bass on ‘Reverse Running’ recalls what made Flea so charming on Red Hot Chili Peppers’ more tolerable moments. Waronker holds these elements together with understated aplomb. Godrich, as usual, makes things sound lovely.
Getting stoned with celebrity friends while listening to Afrobeat must be a lot of fun when you’re an A-lister. But this goes way beyond bromance: away from the confines of their stagnant, perhaps loveless marriages, these men are making beautiful music together.
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