Amanda Palmer - Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on her Magical Ukulele
released 20 July 2010 on 8ft Records
After a protracted and well-documented battle, Amanda Palmer is free from her recording contract. Is there any better way of giving the middle finger to your previous employers than a leftfield project no self-respecting record company would go near - an album of Radiohead covers, played on the ukulele, at a cut-down price? Not even ten days after its release, the limited edition vinyl release sold out and the vinyl/t-shirt/button bundle has sold out. Hell, even all six “I Painted This Fucking Ukulele Myself” bundles have sold out.
Unsurprisingly, however, upon listening to 'APPTPHOROHMU', it soon becomes clear that it’s little more than a stop-gap: something to stay in contact with her fanbase and make a statement with. It really is exactly what the title says; Radiohead songs played on the ukulele, and little else. The novelty of hearing these well-known songs on a relatively unusual instrument soon wears off and other than the contrast of having female vocals instead of Thom Yorke’s distinctive wail, there really is nothing added to the mix here.
Fake Plastic Trees and High and Dry are fairly dull when stripped down, and without percussion they struggle to reach the emotional peaks of the originals. Creep is performed in a lilting, Hawaiian style and, for no apparent reason, there are two near-identical live performances - one with audience, one without. Give Palmer her dues though, her attempt to recreate Jonny Greenwood’s primal guitar sturm und drang is admirable, even if it does lack the nihilistic effect on a ukulele.
Oddly enough, the least guitar-based song, Idioteque, is one of the highlights. Although it may lack the intensity and skittering beats of the Kid A version, it showcases what a melodious piece of work it actually is. The only track fit to hold a candle to the Oxford band, though, is OK Computer's Exit Music (for a Film). It features no ukulele and is probably the only non-obvious choice on the EP, but it retains the drama and tension which makes the original so compelling.
Other than to satisfy your curiosity, this EP really isn’t worth your time. A quick listen will just make you want to go and put your Radiohead albums on to hear it done properly. It’s hard not to admire her chutzpah though - to paraphrase words constantly misattributed to Voltaire: I may not agree with Amanda Palmer releasing an album of Radiohead covers played on the ukulele, but I’ll defend to the death her right to do so.