Amnesiac is the fifth studio album by the English alternative rock band Radiohead. It was released on 4 June 2001 in the United Kingdom and on 5 June 2001 in the United States and Canada, debuting at #1 on the UK charts and #2 on the Billboard Top 200. Seen as the furthest departure yet from the rock style and heart-on-sleeve songwriting of the band's early career, Amnesiac nevertheless has more audible guitar than its direct predecessor Kid A, and unlike that album, it spun off several singles. Like Kid A, it synthesizes influences of electronic music, ambient music, classical music, and jazz.
According to guitarist Ed O'Brien, "We had to come to grips with starting a song from scratch in the studio and making it into something, rather than playing it live, rehearsing it and then getting a good take of a live performance. None of us played that much guitar on these records. Suddenly we were presented with the opportunity and the freedom to approach the music the way Massive Attack does: as a collective, working on sounds, rather than with each person in the band playing a prescribed role. It was quite hard work for us to adjust to the fact that some of us might not necessarily be playing our usual instrument on a track, or even playing any instrument at all. Once you get over your insecurities, then it's great. (For more detailed information on the recording sessions, see Kid A.)
While explaining the decision to release two albums rather than one, singer Thom Yorke said, "They are separate because they cannot run in a straight line with each other. They cancel each other out as overall finished things... In some weird way, I think Amnesiac gives another take on Kid A, a form of explanation." He continued: "Something traumatic is happening in Kid A, and this is looking back at it, trying to piece together what has happened." About the differences with the previous record he says: "I think the artwork is the best way of explaining it. The artwork to Kid A was all in the distance. The fires were all going on the other side of the hill. With Amnesiac, you're actually in the forest while the fire's happening."
Yorke said, "I read that the gnostics believe when we are born we are forced to forget where we have come from in order to deal with the trauma of arriving in this life. I thought this was really fascinating. It's like the river of forgetfulness. It may have been recorded at same time... but it comes from a different place I think. It sounds like finding an old chest in someone's attic with all these notes and maps and drawings and descriptions of going to a place you cannot remember. That's what I think anyway.
The album is dedicated to "Noah and Jamie", sons of Thom Yorke and Phil Selway, respectively, who were born between the release of Kid A and the release of Amnesiac.
While Kid A garnered much critical attention, Amnesiac is sometimes viewed as the less accomplished of the two works. Although the album garnered a generally positive critical reception, it has been criticised for a lack of cohesion. Some critics and fans even refer to this fragmentation as a deliberate device used by Radiohead to escape the formula of their previous work. Nevertheless, the album was received well by most critics and nearly reached Kid A's sales (debuting lower in America, but with more copies sold in the first week), marking the band's continued musical explorations as commercially viable to a mass audience. The album appeared to cement Radiohead's status as one of only a few modern UK pop artists able to achieve consistent success in the US.
Amnesiac was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 2001 (which it lost to PJ Harvey's Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, an album on which Yorke had appeared the previous year in a duet with Harvey. Thom would go on to list PJ Harvey in his Thank You's section in the band's 2003 release, Hail to the Thief). Like Radiohead's three previous releases, it was also nominated for a Grammy for Best Alternative Album. Radiohead wrote the songs of both Amnesiac and Kid A in the studio, without regard for live performances, which had to be developed and arranged later. The band had played many of the songs that had already been recorded and would end up on Amnesiac during shows in 2000 to promote Kid A, but they had not toured widely outside of Europe since 1998. In 2001, Radiohead's Amnesiac tour also reached North America and Japan. Several months after the release of Amnesiac, I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings was released, instead of a previously planned "I Might Be Wrong" single. This "mini album" had recordings from the tour, including Amnesiac tracks "I Might Be Wrong", "Like Spinning Plates" and "Dollars & Cents". "Like Spinning Plates" was particularly noted for being a departure from the song's studio version.
Early French promotional copies included a bonus track titled "Like Spinning Plates (Reversed)" which is just as the title suggests. It is unknown if the band approved this as no other release contains this track in that form.
|United Kingdom||4 June 2001||Parlophone||2x10"||10FHEIT 45101|
|United States||5 June 2001||Capitol||CD||CDP 7243 5 32764 2 3|
|United States||5 June 2001||Capitol||CD||CDP 7243 5 32767 2 0 (special edition)|