I have soured on Radiohead faster than a Big Chug of chocolate milk sitting in my car, baking in the Georgian mid-summer heat all day. This "album" certainly does nothing to slow that process any.
Let's start back in 1996, shall we? I was a Radiohead Fan back then. OK Computer had just come out and I was listening to it non-stop. The soaring orchestration of Paranoid Android, like something straight out of Zeppelin at their height, the melancholy depths of Subterranean Homesick Alien and Let Down, more Kafka tone poems than pop songs, these formed the soundtrack for that year, as well as 1997. And 1998.
Hell, I still have the cassette copy of OK Computer in my car. I still listen to it on the drive in to work. I love that album.
Unfortunately, as Radiohead has "expanded their palette" of late, becoming some sort of unholy hybrid of The Rolling Stones and Moby, I come back to certain moments of OK Computer with a different perspective. For example, when Thom Yorke sings, "This is my final fit, my final bellyache" on No Surprises, I can't help but think, "If only we were so lucky," to myself.
So maybe I'm not being fair these days. Maybe I'm judging Radiohead against what I think Radiohead should be rather than what Radiohead thinks Radiohead should be. Maybe, if I could escape my own expectations and preferences I could see Kid A, and now Amnesiac, as something other than a pile of self-indulgent shit.
But I can't.
Take the opening track from Amnesiac, for example. A warbled techno-beat sets itself up in antiseptic isolation from anything, meanders around for a few minutes, and then is overlaid with Yorke's voice, hacked to bits by another sampler or loop-back machine. Over and over he whines, "I'm a reasonable man, get off my case, get off my case."
Over, and over, and over, and over.
Now compare that with Electioneering from the '96 release:
"I will stop, I will stop at nothing
Say the right things, when electioneering.
I trust I can rely on your vote.
Riot shields, voodoo economics
It's business, cattle prods, and the IMF.
I trust I can rely on your vote.
The chorus, "I go forwards, you go backwards, somewhere we will meet", interjects itself as needed. The end result is a scathing critique of international monetary policy years before a single G7/8 protest riot. What you have is an artist making statements, making critical judgments about his world.
This new version of Radiohead is just some wanker hiding in his self-absorbed, solipsistic haze, telling the world to sod off.
That, more than anything else, is what annoys me about this band these days.
So, Amnesiac:do you need it? Depends. Do you need to own a collection of songs deemed too poor to make Kid A's cut? If you don't, you don't need this "album", because all it is is a bunch of outtakes and one-offs of songs that they didn't have room for on last year's release. All that babble about "a proper album" or whatnot is just Radiohead spinning the PR wheels, trying to sell the audience on the legitimacy of this "album".
I'm going to go out on a limb and say this: if you don't have this album already, then you're not a Radiohead Follower. And if you're not a Follower, then you don't need this album for any reason whatsoever.