Music review: Yorke, Flea come together in supergroup debut

  • February 27, 2013

Atoms for Peace, “Amok” (XL Recordings)

Since it was first used to describe the rock band Cream in the 1960s, the term supergroup hasn’t always lived up to its moniker. The idea of assembling players from different bands isn’t always grand, and rarely does it produce an exponential group effort.

Cream, Audioslave and the Travelling Wilburys are a few that triumphed through the sum of its parts. But for every success story, there have been numerous all-star lineups that were too predictable and somewhat boring. One of them is even named after a continent.

But Asia aside, merging players in a band is truly a tricky business.

So it makes you wonder why Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke teamed up with Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea and others in Atoms for Peace.

The nine-song “Amok” has an experimental groove, not much different from what you would expect from a Radiohead album, albeit one with a tad more funk thanks to Flea’s sometimes adventurous bass lines. But when you throw in Yorke’s distinct vocal style and have longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich in the band, what did you expect it to sound like?

Rounding out the quintet is Brazilian percussionist Mauro Refosco and drummer Joey Waronker, who has played with Beck and R.E.M.

While the soundscape comes as no surprise, it’s the chemistry among these guys that makes it work. They complement Yorke’s vocals so well that you might mistake them for a Radiohead cover band. Who cares? With this ensemble, you lose yourself in the record rather quickly.

Above all, it’s an album experience. The songs mesh together nicely, making a standout track less evident. For example, the percussive layering in “Judge, Jury and Executioner” flows pleasantly into the staccato keyboard sounds on the title track. And that perfectly complements “Default,” the band’s first single.

By John Carucci, AP


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