Atoms for Peace fall short of potential

Alex LaSalle

Here’s a new idea: let’s take ghost-voiced Radiohead singer Thom Yorke, longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, a couple session musicians and toss in Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea.

Sounds crazy, right? Well, that is Atoms for Peace. Their debut album “AMOK” was released Feb. 25.

“AMOK,” like latter-day Radiohead, runs through the realm of electronic music. Or rather, it sort of jogs through. On the opposite end of the scale from Skrillex and the land of louder-than-loud drops, AMOK is humming synths and clicking percussion.

The lead track “Before Your Very Eyes” opens with Thom’s ghostly singing, a repetitive percussion loop and eventually a solid bass groove from Flea. And that is where it stays.

Each song on “AMOK” has a rhythm, some vocal and some synth melodies, but there is no shifting, no changes in volume or tempo. That would be fine if what was there was particularly exciting, but it isn’t.

Flea’s bass work is the only thing separating this from Radiohead’s “King of Limbs” – or even Yorke’s solo record, “The Eraser” – but there really isn’t enough of it. More melodic than his slap-funk work with the Chili Peppers, Flea spends most of the album either too far down in the mix or not in it at all.

It’s only halfway through the album, on “Stuck Together Pieces,” when his bass really starts to fill things out. It’s one of the album’s highlights.

Unfortunately, it still doesn’t save “AMOK.” Yorke is content to hover over the songs in his softer, higher range. The percussion never really changes from handclaps and pencils tapping on desks. The synthesizers occasionally build up to a climax that never comes.

If this was a new band, then the album would be seen as a sign of a bright future full of potential. But, considering the copious amount of talent in Atoms for Peace, “AMOK” is a let-down. Each song feels more like an extended sample than something complete. The result is an album that, in spite of its few highlights, doesn’t really go anywhere new or exciting.