Given its pedigree, Atoms for Peace's debut album, "Amok" (XL), should be great.
The supergroup -- with Radiohead's Thom Yorke on vocals, Red Hot Chili Pepper Flea on bass, R.E.M. and Beck veteran Joey Waronker on drums and David Byrne collaborator Mauro Refosco on percussion -- got together with Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich for three days of jamming. There's no way that much talent can turn out something that's not good.
What keeps "Amok" from making the leap from good to great, though, is a problem that affects a lot of songs born from high-level jamming. So much of "Amok" is built around the strong grooves of Flea and Waronker that you wait for the inspiration that pulls it all together to arrive and, a lot of times, it doesn't, leaving you wondering why you waited.
The album opens with a stunning trick. "Before Your Very Eyes..."begins with a fierce bit of Fela-inspired bass guitar and African percussion, with Yorke's haunting vocals floating atop it all. As the song progresses, the warmth of that instrumentation is gradually replaced by synthesizers sounding increasingly icy, until it becomes twitchy samples and whispers.
It's a great song and an even greater concept, but it's a rarity on "Amok," where concepts usually win out. When Atoms for Peace have a great song, like the lovely "Ingenue," the results are spectacular. They should do the songs first next time.
Thom Yorke and Flea