MUSIC: Atoms For Peace

DID YOU HEAR the one about when Thom Yorke, Flea and Mauro Refosco walked into a recording studio? Well you soon will. Atoms For Peace is in theory a collaboration between members of Radiohead, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Beck’s backing band, however it’s easier to think of AMOK as a second Thom Yorke solo album with guest appearances. It is stylistically and sonically similar to both 2006’s Eraser and Radiohead’s most recent effort The King Of Limbs, even sharing a producer with both in Nigel Godrich. So beyond appeasing the party faithful, why should anyone care about this album?

If you aren’t a Radiohead fan before this album, it probably isn’t the work to convince you; however if you are then if given a chance, within the album you can find a densely produceAtoms-For-Peaced, often intriguing and most surprisingly from the man that brought you Kid A, occasionally danceable. It must be lauded that at 45 minutes, it is an album free of the normal self-indulgence of side-projects and super-groups. Equally each of the members gets their moments to shine. Whilst every track is built around vocals from Thom Yorke,  it is Flea’s muscular bass-lines that take centre-stage especially on album highlight ‘Stuck Together Pieces’ which is a beautiful, dream-like piece of electronica supported by one of the funkiest bass-lines you’ll hear this year, some superb horn work and some sublime percussion from Refosco.

The album suffers to begin with as many of the songs seem to blur into one another. It is hard to expect every album Yorke touches to be a Kid A or an Ok Computer but it certainly seems to be an album that has relaxed into an unsettling but comfortable groove. Yet the album turns this into a positive.  As singular tracks, early pieces like ‘Default’ and ‘Dropped’ seem relatively unremarkable but when taking the album as a whole; it turns into something more than the sum of its parts.  It must be said that Godrich’s production on the album is near flawless; there is hardly a beat out of place. Equally in ‘Judge Jury and Executioner’, we have the best single that Yorke has made since ‘Karma Police’, taking the promise of ‘Lotus Flower [King Of Limbs]’ and improving upon it.

It is a shame that considering the promise of the album that where it has a perfect ending track in ‘Reverse Running’, that this is only the penultimate. Like so many near great albums, it suffers from a final track that whilst perfectly fitting, seems merely to finish instead of climax. It leaves not with a bang but a relaxed sigh. Nevertheless, it is like many other super-groups, a pleasure to hear a group of talented musicians making what feels like the music they want to hear and on the basis of this album, the music I’m sure a great deal more will want to enjoy as well.