When purchasing Amnesiac, I was confronted by two other signposts of today”s music industry Jessica Simpson”s Irresistible and Icelandic Sigur Ros” domestic release of Agaetis Byrjun. Jessica Simpson”s album cover particularly made an impression upon me, her sexuality so forced, her eyes nearly bugging out of her head. Simpson”s drivel lacks even the charm of Mandy Moore, reaching such a derivative point as to be no longer enjoyable.

Paul Wong
Courtesy of Knopf

Obviously, Radiohead is on the other end of the spectrum making more challenging, interesting music. That”s why it”s forgivable that their new album, Amnesiac, just doesn”t measure up to 2000″s Kid A. Call it what you want Kid B, Ugly Kid Stepbrother, rejects-from-companion-album-collection it”s just the truth. Recorded during the same sessions as the career altering and experimental, electronically infused Kid A, Amnesiac is more than a reject collection. Neither is it a return to the traditional songwriting and brilliance (a la OK Computer) heralded by the press.

Like the video for the eerie, almost painfully somber “Pyramid Song” don”t listen to it with knives around it is the promise of return to a forever-altered landscape. “A moon full of stars and astral cars/And all the things I used to see/All my lovers were there with me.”

In the video, a figure in a post-apocalyptic, drowned world dives beneath the risen waterline to his former home, apparently to die in his old surroundings, united with the sparkling souls of family and friends.

On Amnesiac there are remains of their more standard song structures, such as “Knives Out,” which exist inside of their new electronic universe. Another showcase is the enjoyable beat parade that is “Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors.” An altered version of Kid A”s “Morning Bell” highlights Amnesiac”s weaknesses while joining them together like Siamese twins fortunately not an insufferable double album, but linked together and more digestible and understandable alone.

While keeping clear of their own formula for success, Radiohead has managed to distinguish themselves from their own clones (think: Coldplay) and keep things interesting. While nowhere on this album do they reach the kind of transcendence Sigor Ros provide, they allow bands like them to find an audience and a market. Amnesiac”s packaging pretty much says it all, an old, comfortable book scribbled with danger: “Keep quiet/underground bunkers/charm offensive/overhead cables humming.” A perfect warning, a gracious invitation.

Grade: B+

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