Side projects are a funny old thing. Sometimes the results of a band taking some time out to work on their individual projects can lead to some genuinely interesting and new original content. In other cases it can seem pointless as a side project becomes so similar to the original project that it ends up being pointless. One side project that has been garnering some massive critical attention is Thom Yorke's new(ish) side project Atoms For Peace. Many in the music press have described this as a supergroup as it features Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nigel Godrich and Joey Waronker of R.E.M and Beck and some other Brazilian guy who I've never heard of. These artists were originally taken on as a live band to back Mr Yorke when he was touring in support of his seminal 2006 solo album The Eraser. Whilst there is always a sense of hero worship and unassailable praise for anything Thom Yorke touches, this is not always fitting. Similarly looking up any of the other musicians in Atoms For Peace you will notice that the majority of them are immune to any serious criticism in the music press, Flea for example is regularly put on a pedestal for his bass work with the dull and California obsessed Red Hot Chili Peppers. So finding a realistic assessment of this album that isn't somewhat biased by the members previous works will probably be relatively difficult to do.
Overall the album pretty much picks up where The Eraser left off the only differences that are genuinely notable being a slightly warmer and more produced feel to the record. This in itself is by no means a criticism the Eraser was a really great record so more tracks in this vein is not exactly a bad thing. Unfortunately this similarity with Thom's previous solo record does carry over the same negative connotations his solo debut had. The similarity between the material on show here and on more electronica influenced Radiohead releases raising the ugly question whether or not the two things are really worthy of being separate entities in their own right. The feel of the record is so similar in fact that I have forgone labelling this album as an Atoms For Peace record simply because whatever input these other musicians may have had on the record it simply does not have anything regarding an independent identity. The gesture of changing the project to account to acknowledge his contributors, whilst noble, is pretty much bereft of meaning here.
What the album does do, however is deliver consistent sketchy electronica and it does this very well. The overall flow is good and there is enough variance to make it a worthwhile listen. Rather worryingly Amok is more consistently enjoyable than Radiohead's frankly underwhelming 2011 effort King Of Limbs, an album that was vexed by its patchy and directionless meanderings and out of time drum sections. Still there will be plenty of places to go check this record out for yourself and form your own opinions and I would recommend you do. Providing you go in expecting Thom Yorke you won't leave disappointed, if however you're thinking Atoms For Peace will be a mash up between OK Computer and Californication you'll come away disappointed and rightly so because that mix would sound horrendous.