Atoms for Peace's Amok is an arduous trek through too many songs

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Atoms for Peace debut album Amok is haphazard and insincere. Thom Yorke supposedly crafted the songs on his laptops and it sounds that way.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Photo | Daily Texan Staff

It had to happen eventually. Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke essentially continues his solo career under the moniker Atoms For Peace, gathering close friends for the band and taking the name from a track off his 2006 solo album The Eraser. The all-star group, consisting of Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea and their touring percussionist Mauro Refosco, former Beck/R.E.M drummer Joey Waronker and longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, was initially gathered to perform songs off The Eraser live. After a few years of jamming together, they decided to record an original record, almost as a continuation of Radiohead’s turn towards electronica per 2011’s The King Of Limbs

Yorke’s electronic experimentalism dominates Amok, the band’s debut. He supposedly crafted the songs on his laptop before teaching the band what to do, and the result is as inorganic as the process sounds. Amok is a puzzling move — there’s almost no resemblance to typical songwriting formats like verse/chorus/verse, and Yorke’s consolatory emotional falsettos per late Radiohead songs “Lotus Flower” or “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” are largely downplayed and replaced with peculiar wailings.     

The songs are rendered largely inaccessible in their quest for avant-gardism. Opener “Before Your Very Eyes...” makes the listener arduously wait for three minutes before the band shows its true hand. Yorke’s ubiquitous moaning is oversaturated with reverb, to the extent of making any sort of lyrical intelligibility impossible. The fuzzy synthesizers backed by an incessant drum shuffle seem to continue through all of Amok’s unnecessary 47 minutes. The length of most songs is around five minutes, just long enough to hint at a musical climax that never comes. 

Some songs like the single “Default,” and “Unless” show untapped potential that is subsequently smothered with confusing electronic samples and vocal loops. What should be catchy turns out to be discordant through overproduction. And then Amok ends on the title track, fading away as unsatisfactorily and mysteriously as it began. 

With a lineup able to make any rock n’ roll fan jump out of their chair, one might have expected an enthralling debut. But Amok was crafted on a laptop, and maybe it should have stayed that way. The rock star names are just a publicity stunt. It is impossible to determine where Flea’s bass is real or when Yorke programs it. There is both a drummer and a percussionist credited in the band, yet the drums on every track sound like a drum machine. The result is a haphazard record that plays as an insincere spin-off of The King of Limbs, which could’ve been billed as a Thom Yorke solo project or a much less talented Flying Lotus. 

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