As a band, Radiohead is pretty much where anyone would want to be right now. Not only do they enjoy critical success, but they have pretty darn good sales to match and sell out stadium tours and have 40,000 people singing along with them and leaning on every note. Not only that, but in the process, they've managed to keep creative freedom that most major-label bands can only dream of. In the course of 5 albums, they've gone from fairly mainstream alternative rock fair to out-there experiments in rock music that actually work most of the time.
Recorded at the same time as their previous release Kid A, Amnesiac was supposedly going to be the return to a more rock based album, or so they said. As it stands, Amnesiac is the logical progression of those recording sessions, with some tracks that work even better than the previous release, while others simply feel like they might have been tagged on at the last moment. Even at that, though, it's an ambitious and interesting release. The group again experiments heavily with encorporating electronic elements into their sound (including the glitching trickery they pull off with Thom Yorkes vocals), but they've also managed to include a wide range of sounds that keeps the album interesting.
The album starts with "Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box" and the track feels almost like the sequel to "Idioteque" from Kid A. With an almost dancy feel, the track mixes some cranky electronics with a touch of squealing guitars for one of the oddest pop tracks I've heard in awhile. "Pyramid Song" takes a bit more of a traditional approach to things, combining a solid piano accompaniment to Yorkes vocals while everything from haunting electronics to orchestral flourishes swirl in behind. Eventually, the standard rhythm section comes in as well, and by the end of the track it's a multilayered, beautiful thing. Mixing things up again, the very next song "Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors" rolls along on a rather abrasive beat while keyboard noodlings and chunks of distorted vocals by Yorke drop into the mix.
From there, the album heads into more familiar territory for awhile. "You And Whose Army" builds slowly and steadily until a nice rock blowout at the end while "I Might Be Wrong" is the most straight-ahead rocking track on the entire disc (as well as one of the catchiest). "Knives Out" and "Dollars & Cents" also take a more traditional route, while the version of "Morning Bell/Amnesiac" strips things down into an almost haunting, rather atmospheric track. It's the last three tracks on the disc that probably show the most wild styles on the disc. "Hunting Bears" feels sort of like a throwaway track with its rambling two minutes of guitars while "Like Spinning Plates" rides a backwards masking crossed with bits of electronic feel until Yorkes vocals are straightened out into the title.
The album closes out with "Life In A Glasshouse" and finds the group in sort of a swamp jazz style with plenty of horns. It feels so completely organic next to the rest of the album that it makes you wonder what the hell else the group has up there sleeve (answer: probably plenty). In the end, Amnesiac feels like the slightly less developed cousin to Kid A. It's good in it's own right, but not quite as consistent. It's still quite interesting, though, and here's hoping that they keep on doing their thing.