Atoms For Peace: Thom Yorke 20 years on
- By Hazel Sheffield -
- Jan 21, 2013
Everything Everything, the Manchester-based four piece who first pricked up our ears with a head-spinning debut, ‘Man Alive’ in 2010, were back last week with a new album. ‘Arc’ has received resolutely positive reviews, but one comparison abounds.
“The album ‘Arc’ has most in common with is ‘OK Computer’,” writes Barry Nicholson in NME. “The sublime ‘Undrowned’ and ‘The House is Dust’ could easily slip unnoticed on to Radiohead's ‘In Rainbows’,” says Phil Mongredien in the Observer. They’re both wrong, of course. Everything Everything sound nothing like Radiohead – for lots of reason, including the fact that no one can sound like Thom Yorke but Thom Yorke. But what these critics might be hearing is the evolution of musical ideas from Radiohead records into the minds (and albums) of a new generation of bands.
Listen to the loop in ‘Weird Fishes/Apeggi’ off ‘In Rainbows’. It’s a beautiful thing, a guitar line softened by reverb, anchoring the song rhythmically and giving everything else something to push against. Even the drums in the song take their cues from that loop. That same sound appears in Wild Beasts’ ‘Loop the Loop’, written three years later. There are shades of it in Alt-J’s ‘Intro’ from last year. And again, in Everything Everything’s ‘Undrowned’. The loop contributes to the proggy sound of these albums, the feeling that they could just run and run. It’s just one musical motif, an idea Thom Yorke might have picked up from electronic music, with that genre’s slowly mutating patterns, but it’s already traveled through recent musical history. It won’t be the only sound Radiohead have appropriated to do so.
This month also sees a rare interview with the man himself hit the news stands. Thom Yorke agreed to speak with Dazed and Confused’s editor-in-chief Tim Noakes in the run up to a new album release by Yorke’s ‘supergroup’ side project, Atoms For Peace. Noakes admits to feeling (understandably) daunted by the task at hand. He winds up publishing a piece that is everything you’d want out of a Thom Yorke interview – along with some amazing photography, all of which is well worth your time and money.
At one point, Noakes asks Yorke whether he is surprised that so many different types of people like his music. News outlets both sides of the pond leapt on Yorke’s response that he’d ‘sue the living shit’ out of David Cameron if the UK prime minister ever dared use any of his music politically. Okay, whatever. What comes after that pull quote is actually far more interesting:
“I’m now getting this thing where a cute 18-year-old girl will come up to me and she’s say, ‘Aww man, will you sign this for my mum? She turned me onto your music when I was tiny.’ And I’d be like, ‘Ohhh, for fuck’s sake!’ That spins me out on a number of levels. I’ve got two generations now.”
In the 20 years since Radiohead released their debut album, ‘Pablo Honey’, there have always been two generations of Radiohead and two generations of Radiohead fans, with the divide falling before and after ‘Kid A’. Say to a fan of Radiohead-after-Kid-A, “Oh, I don’t like Radiohead, they’re so miserable,” (fans of pre-Kid-A-Radiohead get this a lot) and they’ll have no idea what you’re talking about.
Now, we’re also getting to the point where Radiohead, and Thom Yorke specifically, have been writing music that is starting to feed back into the active loop of creative consciousness. Thom Yorke is aware of it, of course. He is not immune from recycling his own ideas (even names – ‘Atoms For Peace’ is the name of a song off ‘The Eraser’, the solo album the band Atoms For Peace first came together to play, while ‘Judge Jury and Executioner’, the latest Atoms For Peace single, borrows its title from the parenthesis of ‘Myxomatosis (Judge, Jury & Executioner)’ off ‘Hail to the Thief’). But to hear his ideas resurface in the music of a new generation of intelligent British bands is nothing short of thrilling.
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