Review Summary: I think you're craaaaazyyyyyyyy..... mayyyyyybeeeeeeee....
Ten years. One decade. It sounds like a long time when you think about it, but I remember popping Kid A on that cold November evening into my CD player, and being absolutely blown away. It was long, long before I had been introduced to the cataclysmic, bleak, yet utterly wonderful OK Computer
, or the gorgeous, profoundly underrated Amnesiac
, before I had time to appreciate all the lovely things after and before Kid A. And as a brisk, harshly orange sunrise emerged, my eyelids heavy from driving, the ending harp melodies faded in "Motion Picture Soundtrack", and I couldn't forget that long drive in the night, or that day I was introduced to Radiohead.
In the ten years that have past, I've learned that Radiohead was never this extraordinary from the start. They were a simple rock band on the rise in the United Kingdom. Before the endless weeks on the charts, before being called the biggest band of our decade, they were a band on the rise, on the originally "desiccate" Pablo Honey
, then to substandard success with "Creep", the increased fame of "The Bends", and finally finding redemption and international success with "OK Computer" and "Kid A", called two of the greatest albums of all time. But to the folk, who once thought, in 1994, that Radiohead was a straightforward, dull rock band, Kid A will change your mind. To the folk that think Radiohead is an attention whore of a band, too far overrated for their own good, you're missing out on the haunting, bitter, yet so amazingly brilliant Kid A
If it sounds like I'm leading this review to glorify Kid A
as the holiest and greatest achievement on the alternative genre, and one of this decade, I'm not. Kid A, like every other Radiohead album, has a few problems that stalls it from near-perfection. But jot this down: this is not OK Computer: The Sequel. In fact, Radiohead completely started from scratch in this album, turned down the melodic sound that pumped OK Computer to success. Depression had filled the band at this point: Yorke suffered from a severe example of depression and writer's block combined, and it had become a strain to follow up on the phenomenon they made. So they started anew: and started for a more Pink-Floyd sound. This therefore makes it a highly ambitious album, to follow up on their third album. And Kid A meets almost every expectation it set.
The new sound to the album is melodramatic and menacing. Synthesized instruments are consistently used throughout the album: the sad acoustics, the digital traits, and the large number of instruments used completely remove any elemental traits from the music before it, and with good results. It's suspenseful and ironic, considering the group's message in their previous LP. The title track is almost completely done by computer and digital tools, with Yorke's voice a metallic sound in the background, the xylophone sequences and bass lines, most tracks completely focusing on texture ("The National Anthem", "Optimistic"), and sometimes using new sounds to experiment with ("Idioteque", "Treefingers"). Organs, synthesized bass, strings, even glockenspiels, Kid A is entirely different from their third album fans may identify them with.
And Kid A's lyrics are incredibly daunting. The title track alone is one of the most thought-provoking songs on the album, with wicked poetry and random lines. It could be anti-globalization, or plain spooky in terms of the subject manners of songs. (Motion Picture Soundtrack brilliantly states, "It's not like the movies") It's all very tricky in how it all works, and the hauntingly beautiful instruments in the back of Yorke's chilling falsetto pitch, Kid A
has a strange ability to make some of the most stunning songs while still being an album that puts many on edge. The post-apocalyptic cover art, and back cover, alone are signs that this album is not one to take simply, to compare it to generic rock nowadays.
To be perfectly honest, this new sound and scary presence can alienate many Bends
fans a good deal. Radiohead was approaching electronic music in a completely blind matter. The lyrical content described a world on the brink of downfall, or so we think. The instruments are cataclysmic and disturbing, yet beautiful. And yet, it's one of the most important albums in the last ten years to many, a phenomenal title that will never again be performed. Kid A is not perfect, but a 5 warrants an album that is classic, one for the ages. And no matter how much Kid makes you want to hate it, it's an album that is lovable in many aspects. So it's hard to give it anything less.
For Radiohead's standards: 5 / 5
For the ambitions and expectations: 4.5 / 5
(I do like Amnesiac better than The Bends)
Motion Picture Soundtrack
Pink Floyd - The Dark Side of the Moon
Radiohead - Amnesiac