Word was, after last year's gizmo-heavy and hype-fueled Kid A, that the next Radiohead album would be a return to more melodic mainstream music. But Amnesiac, recorded during the Kid A sessions, is just as fucked-up as its predecessor. And we mean that in a good way. Kid A, released a mere eight months ago, took the electro-paranoia fantasies of OK Computer, gave them a big, wet kiss, and opened its big metallic arms to them. Amnesiac has since shacked up with its anxieties and finally beds its fear of music (and technology and just about everything else).
The buzzes and hums on this record are just as comforting as they are discomforting. Singer Thom Yorke still enunciates words until the simplest phrases (like the "I'm a reasonable man/Get off my case" refrain of "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box") become theses, and he bends and shapes the sounds of them to the point where he and they become part of the music. Amnesiac eventually reaches a state of tranquillity all its own, happiness built on the surrounding unsettling environment.
But Kid A got there first, and Amnesiac can't help but feel like Kid Amnesiac at times. It's a great record -- as challenging and imaginative as its ancestor, yet devoid of the metaphorical buzz that heralded the first birth last October (this is, let's face it, Kid B). Commercial considerations are again discarded, although the sweeping "Morning Bell/Amnesiac" has a chance for airplay, and the mournful piano ballad "Pyramid Song" is mostly gimmick-free. Yorke even sings on top of a waltzing combo on the closing "Life in a Glasshouse," which is a sign of either harmonious acceptance or the apocalypse. With Kid A/Amnesiac, it's sometimes hard to tell the difference.