This week sees the release of Amok, the debut album by Thom Yorke’s much-heralded Atoms for Peace project. The album sets Yorke with an unlikely cast of collaborators: Flea, long-time producer Nigel Godrich, REM drummer Joey Waronker, and a Brazilian multi-instrumentalist by the name of Mauro Refosco. They’re a supergroup, basically, no matter how much Yorke decries the term. And like many supergroups, they prove less than the sum of their parts — getting the idea of putting a bunch of successful musicians together to work is more difficult than it seems. For proof, check out this selection of other supergroups who didn’t quite live up to the promise of their membership, along the way demonstrating some of the problems that plague the entire concept.
Atoms for Peace
Here’s the thing with Atoms for Peace: they’re not bad. If anything, they’re too good for their own good. The music is produced beautifully, played flawlessly — but it feels too polished, like it’s a mental exercise for highly accomplished replicants or something. Compared to Yorke’s “other” band, it lacks some sort of soul; Radiohead, after all, are also excellent musicians, but they imbue their records with a tinge of emotion that’s missing here. The whole thing demonstrates a problem with supergroups: assembling a whole bunch of hyper-talented musicians doesn’t guarantee a creative spark, any more than assembling a bunch of really attractive people makes for good conversation.