Radiohead
Kid A


5.0
classic

Review

by Med57 EMERITUS
January 17th, 2005 | 634 replies


Release Date: 2000 | Tracklist


The Band:
Thom Yorke (Vocals, Keyboards, Guitar)
Jonny Greenwood (Guitar, Mellotron, Other Instruments)
Ed O'Brien (Guitar)
Colin Greenwood (Bass Guitar)
Phil Selway (Drums, Percussion)

Released: 2000 (Parlophone)

Following the release of 1997’s OK Computer, the music world was Radiohead’s for the taking. The album was heralded worldwide as a masterpiece, being voted as the best album of all time by a prestigious music magazine, and it seemed as if Radiohead had become the next U2: a band that would be playing stadiums for the rest of their career with the kind of songs that other band could only dream of making. Although these predictions seemed logical, lead singer Thom Yorke had other ideas.

The album was created in conditions that threatened to split the band apart, with Thom Yorke later declaring that “All melodies to me were pure embarrassment"; something in bitter contrast to Ed O’Brien’s desire to make a record of 3 minute pop songs. The actual recording process was hell also, with band members struggling with the concept that they would not be playing in some of the songs, and had to learn to be “participants in the songs without playing a single note". After a series of crisis meetings the band split into two groups, neither of which were allowed to use guitars, drums, or communicate with the other. It was from this structure that Kid A was born. The results were like nothing that Radiohead had recorded before, again.

1. Everything In Its Right Place. On hearing this, the band's transition is immediately apparent, with this being the direct opposite to an anthemic song. This is a keyboard led piece of music, with Yorke repeating phrases over the top of stuttering vocal arrangements in the background, that leaves a somewhat unsettling image in your mind of a deliberately over sanitized situation, showing that Radiohead have lost none of their ability to disorient their listeners. It's worth mentioning the overall concept behind this album here, namely that Thom thought "Kid A" would be the name given to the first human cloned baby. Clearly, given some of the Spartan music on here this is not an idea he is entirely comfortable with, and this song, marking the "birth" of the baby definitely shows that. The idea of everything being in its right place is not an idea that Radiohead have ever approached with anything less than total irony. 5/5.

2. Kid A. One of the weirdest songs on the album, this shows how desperate Yorke was to stop his voice being the focal point of the music, as here his lyrics are unintelligible. It's a dark song, with Phil Selway's drums looped in the background, over keyboards and Jonny Greenwood playing an Ondes Martenot. One of the few lyrics you can hear is references to shadows, but this is a very strange song, which is of an extremely ambient, moody nature. Probably one of the most experimental, electronic songs on here, this gets 4/5.

3. The National Anthem. This is the one song on the album that Colin Greenwood is really noticeable on, with a driving bass riff that powers the song. What sounds like wind and background noise is going off in the background as well, along with Phil Selway's drums, but what makes this song is a jazz band that fades in and out of the song repeatedly. In itself the song should be chaotic, due to the sheer number of ideas bouncing around, but these, combined with the tinny production of Thom Yorke's voice, makes this a sinister masterpiece, which marked the turning point in the creation of the album. It's one of the strangest songs the band have done, but even by their standards one of their free-flowing best. The final moments of this song, where the jazz section play one final doom laden note is both discordant, yet somehow amazing. 5/5.

4. How To Disappear Completely. Put simply, I would say this is one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded. The story behind this track again lies rooted in the OK Computer tour, where Thom Yorke felt his had an out of body experience playing in Dublin, thinking his body was floating down the River Liffey. After calling Michael Stipe after the show, he was told to repeat to himself, "I'm not here, this isn't happening"; the staple lyric of this song. Musically the song is brilliant, with string arrangements shimmering in the background making it gorgeously emotional. In particular, there's a moment at about 5:20 when the strings clear, and it seems almost as if the listener has emerged from under water back into reality (I have no idea where that image came from...you have to hear it to understand.) Absolutely incredible, and 5/5.

5. Treefingers. This is an instrumental interlude, which has Ed O'Brien playing a distorted feedback guitar, arranged by Jonny Greenwood. It's a very ambient piece, which just wanders along without any real purpose, although it's arranged very well into an easy listening bit of music, which somehow challenges you at the same time. It's nothing special though, and gets 3/5.

6. Optimistic. If you preferred the old Radiohead, this is the song on here you would probably most like. It's a guitar led song (jokingly known as Poptimistic among the band), which is more of a conventional rock song than anything else. This also features some of Thom Yorke's best singing on the album, not least as it is clearer than on many other songs on here. The main lyric to this is "You can try the best you can, the best you can is good enough"; something that was coined by Thom Yorke's partner, possibly as a counterbalance to his paranoia and hypomania at the time of recording this album. This is good, without being great, and is raised by the jazz coda at the end of the song, which leads directly into the next track. 4.5/5.

7. In Limbo. I would personally say this was the worst genuine song on the album, and the first song that seems to be aimless, with the lyrics vaguely referring to "trap doors that open", while voices murmur in the background. The title possibly comes from Ed O'Brien's statement midway through the recording that the band was "essentially In Limbo", something that he said in his online diary of the sessions. This captures the state between being asleep and awake very well, but it's hard to warm to this song, although it has some very dark moments in. 3.5/5

8. Idioteque. I never would have thought that Radiohead would make what is effectively a dance track, with the backing essentially being Phil Selway on a snare drum, while the bass and guitars fizz around it. The lyrics to this are incredible but disturbing, with it referring possibly to the first Gulf War (an obsession of Thom Yorke), with lyrics such as, “Who’s in bunker...women and children". They could also refer to politicians, or possibly even the band's mindset itself ("We're not scaremongering...this is really happening"). This was one of the most divisive songs on here, but has now become a live favourite, but I would classify this as one of the best songs that Radiohead have done, although you would have been laughed out of town if you had ever suggested that they could make something like this, even 3 years previously. 5/5.

9. Morning Bell. The previous song leads into this, with the lyrics apparently being inspired by a "fan" sending a letter to Yorke telling him that he should have died instead of Jeff Buckley. It's another drum led song, powered by Phil Selway's triplets, although it has another strong vocal on it, with the lyrics also being about the breakup of a family, containing lines such as "cut the kids in half" and "release me". Both of these are repeated to give another sinister effect, although the fact that the backing track is relatively upbeat makes this more confusing. It's the sheer mundanity of the lyrics that makes the song effective; a theme that Radiohead return to again and again, in how pointless everyday activities are. It's not quite as good as the best on this album, although the final moments where Thom seems to mutter in the background under his own singing, while the band moves into gear, work very well. 4.7/5.

10. Motion Picture Soundtrack. I cried the first time I heard this song. To me it is so unbelievably sad and beautiful that it has an emotional impact that few other bands can ever hope to achieve. It marks the end of the Kid A story, with lyrics such as "red wine and sleeping pills, help me get back to your arms", set over a mournful synth organ that creates a funereal mood. The second verse when a harp enters the music is still more beautiful, but the moment when the backing vocals end, and we are left with one note before Thom Yorke sings "I will see you in the next life" is a glorious way of ending the main body of the album. There is a hidden track, which is solely onrushing noise, mixed with a choir, but this song is another incredible album closer by Radiohead, and one that brings the whole concept of the album to a close. 5/5

In short, this is a really good album. The cover art sets the tone for it, as it can be a difficult listen at first, but it is well worth persevering with. Radiohead have always been masters at changing their sound, but the transition from OK Computer to this marks probably the most radical, and yet best example of this. There are some moments on here which are not brilliant, but these are more than outweighed by moments of genius from the group, showing that in spite of seemingly wilful attempts to commit commercial suicide (no advertising at their shows, no interviews or promotion for the album), this is now recognised generally as one of their 2 best albums, and regularly appears on top 100 lists. It's another masterpiece from Thom Yorke and his band, against all the odds, and although not a perfect album, it comes pretty close.

Final Rating: 4.8/5



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user ratings (5221)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Werny
February 21st 2005


148 Comments


Great, brilliant review for one of the best albums ever, the only thing I disagree with is Treefingers. It's my favourite song on there.

I give it a definite 5/5.

Kage
March 6th 2005


1172 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I give this a 5/5. I just bought it for real, and it's just amazing. I think this surpasses OK Computer, but that's of course debatable. This album is really dark and has so many bizarre sounds that just come together to create this haunting sound.

One thing I love about it is the inside pictures in the booklet. When you look at them while listening, it creates this great visual stimuli that goes along with the sounds, and consumes you in the music, creating a semi-euphoric state. Works for me, at least.

Something about this album is so brialliant that I can't even describe it.

br3ad_man
Emeritus
March 6th 2005


2125 Comments


I think this is a 5/5 too. It may not be perfect, but if an album has to be completely perfect to deserve a 5/5, then there aren't going to be many 5/5s around.

Still, excellent review Med

Distorted Vision
March 27th 2005


184 Comments


I got this recently. I noticed my favourite songs are the even numbered ones. Great album.

Werny
May 12th 2005


148 Comments


Adding to my earlier comments.

Not even Tool's Lateralus equates to the experience I had listening to this the first time. You have no idea. I had my lovely headphones on, lying on a beanbag at a friend's house with no lights on watching the repeated screening of the 2000 Olympic games opening ceremony. I had only heard There There and Karma Police prior to this, so I had no idea of the techno nature of this piece.

It was, simply, the best aural moment of my life. After listening, I couldn't even remember faintly what the tracks sounded like, it was just the most perfect, ambient experience ever, I didn't want it to end. I was truly somewhere else that night.

And give some love for Treefingers somebody.

br3ad_man
Emeritus
May 12th 2005


2125 Comments


I LOVE Treefingers.

You heard "There There" in year 2000?

Jawaharal
June 10th 2005


1832 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I remeber listening to this whole cd after a long trip. I owned it for about a month but hated it at first but it really grew on me. I just sat on my bed and listened to the whole thing. It was absolutely amazing. I really thought about my life when listening to it. The ambient atmosphere was just perfect for the mood I was in. By the time motion picture soundtrack came on I was crying it was so beautiful. The best album ever next to dark side of the moon in my book

mushroom-cloud
July 19th 2005


5 Comments


i love your review man, its fantastic although i think you stress the fact that this isnt theyre gretest work too much and compare it to OK Computer too much ... but other than that i love the way you describe the songs. this is probably my second favourite album and i realy think you did radiohead justice..well done mate

egli.

Sepstrup
July 24th 2005


1563 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"I got this recently. I noticed my favourite songs are the even numbered ones. Great album."

Funny, I thought about this when listening to OK Computer, although it doesn't hold up completel. I looove Lucky, which is track 11...

I think this will be my next Radiohead album. I have OK Computer and The Bends

Justanothernimrod
July 28th 2005


478 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

best radiohead album. fact.

Senor_Whippy
August 8th 2005


367 Comments


I just don't get it.'The Bends' was the Alt-Rock classic and 'OK Computer' was.....well a masterpiece but this seems to be a bit weak and drags out in places.But still i respect them for not making 'OK Computer' mk2.

Yorke is KING!!!!.


Shadius
August 14th 2005


203 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I love this album now. The only song I don't like it In Limbo, which is a shame. If only they put something like Packt like Sardines in it's place, this album would be perfect. I agree with the ratings except i'd give In Limbo maybe a 2/5.

Mky1337
August 31st 2005


7 Comments


Very Good album, but not 5 stars

Thor
September 4th 2005


10202 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is a good solid album, but I preferred The Bends. I think a 4 star rating would be better.

Zebra
Moderator
September 4th 2005


2647 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is probably my least favorite Radiohead album(besides Pablo Honey.) It doesn't have a bad song yet there arn't enough stand out tracks.

Aeaon
September 10th 2005


188 Comments


Not my favorite Radiohead album, but it's so amazing. Every Radiohead album is amazing in its own way.

Myxomatosis129
September 12th 2005


13 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

One thing i have heard is that on The National Anthem, Thom Yorke actually plays the bass riff. Im not sure if this is entirely true. Any confirmation?

Zebra
Moderator
September 12th 2005


2647 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'm not sure, but if what you're saying is true than that would be amazing.

Med57
Moderator
September 13th 2005


1001 Comments


I'm pretty certain that it's Colin Greenwood on bass...I've never heard that Yorke played it, anyway.

br3ad_man
Emeritus
September 13th 2005


2125 Comments


I'm pretty sure it was Thom actually.



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