So, let’s get the facts out of the way first. “Atoms for Peace” are made up of Radiohead singer/songwriter and all-round top musician Thom Yorke, Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s resident bass player Flea, Joey Waronker (from Beck and REM fame) and the incredible Brazilian percussionist Mauro Refosco. Add to the mix Nigel Godrich (who has produced Radiohead from almost year dot and has worked with such illustrious artists as U2, Paul McCartney and Natalie Imbruglia (yes, Natalie Imbruglia!) and you have your straight out the tin supergroup.
Not your typical supergroup … granted. However, unlike the recent Grohl “Sound City” collaboration this is quite obviously a long term project, rather than a one off. And how did they meet? Thom Yorke stated that it was “the product of getting together, getting wasted and listening to Fela Kuti”. Not your typical night out then?
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I should at this point add a quick word of warning to all Chill Pepper Fans. If you’re expecting hard hitting rock music then I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed. This is more “King of Limbs” than “Give it Away”.
And so on to the album. The single “Default” has been around for a few months now and was generally considered to be “rather good”. BBC 6Music certainly gave it a lot of airplay and the fact my local pub had it on their in-house playlist for nearly 2 months is generally a good sign. It gets second billing on album behind the very, very good “Before Your Very Eyes”.
“Before Your Very Eyes” starts with a beautiful African riff (Both Flea and Thom Yorke have a well-documented love of Afrobeat) and within a few seconds you’re treated to Flea’s bass (tip … listen with headphones) which fully compliments to incredible percussion arrangement. It’s good. It’s very, very good. Godrich supplies synths half way through and you then realise you’re being treated to something very special.
“Dropped” is also very good. A “slow starter” it then kicks in with an incredible bass line. Lyrically it’s not Thom Yorke’s finest work but the whole production is masterfully put together. It goes without saying that there will be many remixes of this made but I urge you to listen to it in this original form. It’s quite easily the outstanding track of the album.
There are a couple of low points. “Ingenue” just doesn’t seem to work. I still can’t work out if it’s because it’s in between two of the stronger tracks on the album or that it’s just “OK”. And while “Stuck Together Pieces” showcases the undoubted talent of Flea, the track goes no-where.
However, these are the only two aspects of the album that don’t fit. The rest is a master class in how to write, play and produce music.
“Judge, Jury and Executioner” is here as well. The first track the group played live back in 2009, in Los Angeles, and the next track to be released from the album. A catchy tune and vocally Thom Yorke’s best on the album. The title track “AMOK” is stripped-back for the first 4:30 minutes but then finishes with a crescendo. The synths build and percussion becomes more intense leaving you wishing the whole track had been like this. Again, it’s clever and finished the album off perfectly.
At only 9 tracks it’s certainly not the longest album you’ll buy this year. But it’s certainly one of the best. Thom Yorke has also announced that the group will be playing a series of European festivals in 2013. It will be interesting to see if they bond as well on stage as they clearly do in the studio.
Download: Default, Dropped and Before Your Very Eyes
Rating: 4 out of 5