Thom Yorke and Flea run amok in Atoms for Peace
When it was announced that Radiohead singer Thom Yorke and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea would be collaborating with long-time Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich for a new album, fans assumed this would be the formation for a new supergroup. On Tuesday the album “Amok” was finally released, proving that fans were only partially right.
Atoms for Peace, the new group consisting of Yorke, Flea, Godrich and R.E.M. and Beck drummer Joey Waronker is a Thom Yorke album parading itself a supergroup. This is by no means a complaint; the album sounds fantastic. However, people may find it difficult to differentiate it from Yorke’s previous solo effort “The Eraser,” or even the more recent Radiohead efforts.
Godrich and Yorke have taken the recording sessions with Flea and Waronker and mixed and sampled them into an electronic fever dream of an album that has more layers than “The Eraser” but ultimately sounds like what we’ve come to expect from Yorke, albeit with a hint of added funk.
In songs like “Struck Together Pieces” and “Dropped,” there are times where Flea’s bass-slapping influence can be heard but only for a moment before it slips back into the haunting, hypnotic groove of Yorke’s vocals.
The album works best as a whole from beginning to end. The tracks flow progressively, and often it is tough to tell when one track has ended and another begins. Yorke’s vocals often focus more on how they sound rather than what he’s saying and may even take a few listens before you understand his words at all.
That’s all part of the magic of something this dense. You know Flea and Waronker are in there somewhere, buried beneath the synth beats, vocals and reverberating guitar, but it takes some concentration to find them.
This format makes sense. This band played with Yorke during his “Eraser,” in which his slow and stripped-down electronic songs were turned into entirely different live rock performances. When Atoms for Peace performs these songs live in the future, it is likely that they will sound entirely different.
This makes for a very interesting reverse of how we’ve come to enjoy music lately. The actual album tracks are the remixes, and to hear the “real” version you have to see their live performances. Godrich and Yorke have taken the tracks and converted them into something that could never be replicated live; therefore, the live experience and the album experience are entirely different beasts altogether.
Atoms for Peace may not be a complete departure from Yorke’s solo work and Radiohead, but for fans of that music, it is an excellent addition to the collection. “Amok” is perfect for listening to while sitting in a dark room with headphones in, allowing the barrage of beats to put you into a sort of meditative trance that few musicians can provide.