Release date: June 2001
Amnesiac is the fifth studio album by English alternative rock band Radiohead, released in June 2001. Debuting at the top of the UK charts and number two on the Billboard 200, Amnesiac featured more audible guitar than its direct predecessor Kid A, and unlike that album, it spun off several singles. Like Kid A, it synthesised influences of electronic music, ambient music, classical music, and jazz.
Both Amnesiac and Radiohead's album Kid A, which was released eight months earlier in 2000, were recorded in the same period. Most songs on Amnesiac were recorded during the same recording sessions that produced Kid A ("Life in a Glasshouse", however, was recorded with the band of jazz trumpeter Humphrey Lyttelton in late 2000, after the release of Kid A).
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."
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… 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.
The album's lead single was "Pyramid Song", except in the United States where "I Might Be Wrong" was a radio-only single. "Pyramid Song" was Radiohead's first single since 1998's "No Surprises", as their prior album, Kid A, had spun off no official singles. The song reached #5 in the UK, one of the band's highest chart positions. The second single on both sides of the Atlantic was "Knives Out", which reached #13 in the UK and #1 in Canada. Again, unlike Kid A, music videos were produced for both singles, by Shynola and Michel Gondry, respectively. Two separate videos were made for "I Might Be Wrong", one by Sophie Muller, and an Internet-only release by Chris Bran.
As the first Radiohead album with commercial singles released since 1997's OK Computer, the band's Amnesiac era also yielded many new B-sides to the singles. Half of them ("Fast-track," "Kinetic," "Cuttooth," "Life in a Glasshouse (Full Version)") were recorded during the Kid A/Amnesiac sessions, while the other half hail from a late 2000 recording session after the conclusion of the Kid A tour. Several of them, such as "Cuttooth" and "Kinetic", are referenced frequently in guitarist Ed O'Brien's studio diary of the sessions. "Cuttooth" was apparently an important song during these recording sessions, to which Radiohead devoted much time, only being left off Amnesiac at the final stages.