Fans of the last several albums by Radiohead have been equally vocal in their praise of Thom Yorke's songs and their admiration of the relatively abstruse sounds that have surrounded and sometimes enveloped them. Indeed, by the hyperbolic standards of select Kid A reviews, you'd think folks would be just fine with an album consisting only of those sounds -- the keyboard squelches and brass blurts and percussive clang and laptop filigree, detached from the workaday nuisance of chord changes and vocal hooks.
This soundtrack to the little-seen English documentary Bodysong, conceived by Radiohead guitarist-in-name Jonny Greenwood, is that album, and though it's not without the occasional patch of legitimately riveting sound-for-sound's-sake (like the warped wind chime procession "Clockwork Tin Soldiers," which could give even Richard D. James the creeps), it also demonstrates how much more arresting Greenwood's manipulative skills are when serving an ornamental function.
There's simply not enough happening here to hang onto: "Convergence" layers polyrhythmic drum patterns over one another, and that's it; "Nudnik Headache" adds spacy reverb to a musty drum loop, and that's it; "Trench" replicates the sound of sardines packed in a crushed tin box, and that's it. Only "Splitter" really works compositionally, as a sort of footnote to the microwaved Dixieland throb of Amnesiac's "Life in a Glass House."
Typically at this point I'd tell you that Greenwood's freeform musicmaking sounds like it's missing pretty visuals to stave off impatient pop-fan thumb-twiddling, but give him some credit -- the dude already knows that.
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