September 9, 2012

Song Review: Atoms for Peace's "Default"


Don't mistake this as an attempt to sound holier than thou -- Perhaps just do the inoffensive thing and say AS has poor taste in music -- but I never could blindly worship at the alter of Radiohead. I respect their work. I was probably more generous than others in my thoughts about The King of Limbs, but then again, I unintentionally didn't include a single album of theirs when I made my submission to Pitchfork's The People's List. Yet, their music almost single-handedly restores any credibility to being an alt-rock arena band in an era where a crumbling major label industry no longer takes risks and instead serves the lowest common denominator quality to the masses. Thom Yorke's other project Atoms for Peace on the other hand is interesting because it allows Yorke to go places less commercial and more challenging than what his other band can do (keeping in mind that Radiohead doesn't always exemplify "accessibility") while confining its sound to a smaller space experience. A bulk of Atoms for Peace's material to date consists of everything absorbed from Yorke's 2006 solo debut, The Eraser, an LP that oddly garnered better praise and credit when he toured behind it in 2010 once he managed to assemble a live band consisting of Flea, Radiohead's go-to producer Nigel Godrich alongside Mauro Refosco and Joey Waronker. With Radiohead assumedly put on the backburner, Atoms for Peace return with a new single "Default," set to appear on a formal debut album under the moniker next year. The track stylistically makes a lateral move from where Yorke left off with The Eraser with stretched out ambiance, spliced electronic glitches and Thom's signature ghostly vocals. You can however hear that evolving the project into a full-band effort has fleshed out its skipping beats (thanks to Flea's quick-hitting basslines brought to the forefront) and to better suit a live scenario rather than just Yorke sitting alone in his bedroom entertaining himself with samples, a piano and a laptop. With due cause, The Eraser successfully begged for a second look years after its initial release, which makes it completely understandable why Yorke and Atoms for Peace would simply refine that direction on "Default."

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