Review Summary: Kid A marks a revolutionary phase in the band's career, implementing electronic soundscapes and atypical instrumentation.
How do you follow up one of the landmark albums of the 90s that "saved rock and roll music"? Radiohead's answer to this question was to shift gears and run full speed in the opposite direction. Kid A, the band's fourth LP, is by far one of the most career-altering albums ever. This also makes it one of the most divisive. When I first listened to Kid A, I remember I was lying in my bedroom on a rainy afternoon. I wish someone had held a mirror up to my face when the album started rolling because I'm sure my facial expression was priceless. Like many fans, I was perplexed when I first heard Kid A. I was asking myself questions like "What was that?". The transition from the critically praised OK Computer to Kid A was a rough and unexpected one, but in the end, I realized that I had come across one of the most revolutionary and magnificent albums of all time.
Thom Yorke went back to the drawing table and worked to create something new. Kid A is Radiohead's sidestep from mainstream attention. It is certainly a hard album to comprehend and absorb, making it Radiohead's most challenging LP. Full appreciation requires multiple listens, and the listener is rewarded with something that he or she may have missed each time. What makes Kid A so spectacular is its flow. Throughout the album there is a strong sense of unity that binds all of these songs together. The dramatic and noticeable difference between Kid A and its predecessors is the dearth of guitars and the heavier reliance on electronics. However, the electronic aspects of this album lend to the strange and unusual ambience that this album carries. It may catch fans of the guitar-driven Radiohead off-guard, yet this is just another stage in the band's evolution.
The crux of Kid A is its unshakeable attentiveness to detail. At times the sound feels extraterrestrial and robotic, while at other points it sound strangely natural and liberating. A coiled array of textures and sounds often hide in the background only to slowly creep onto center stage. As with any Radiohead album, Kid A progresses on its own terms, but this LP delves into much more bewildering and unmapped territory. Luckily, Radiohead never once sacrifice emotion for ambition.
My favorite song on the album has to be repressed and delicate "How to Disappear Completely". The song details Yorke's constant struggle with international fame. The sheer isolation of this song allows Yorke to pull the listener in with his beautiful vocals overshadowed by an otherworldly collection of sounds. "In Limbo" traps the listener alone at sea with nothing but a looping melody. It is definitely one of the weirdest songs the band has ever released, but it is worth every second. "Optimistic" presents a more conventional song structure that may temporarily relieve the struggling casual listener. "Everything In Its Right Place" sets the tone for the album with heavy reliance on electronic beats juxtaposed with looping vocals. As the opening track, it is most likely the song to surprise people expecting another OK Computer.
This is the album where Thom Yorke finally starts to use his voice as an instrument in itself. The numerous layers of Kid A allow Yorke and the rest of the band to experiment. The title track, "Kid A" reminds me of background music in a car commercial spliced with immensely distorted vocals from Mr. Yorke. The track is incredibly dense and provides a truly gratifying listen with a good pair of headphones. The dance-inducing "Idioteque" is the most energetic song and the album and is the result of hugely successful experimentation. The band masters a newly engineered sound and makes it both distinct and undefinable. The use of bass on "The National Anthem" is immediately addictive alongside the chaotic horns. Kid A certainly has a wintry feel to it, but the sentimental depth keeps the steady pace going. Finally, the album comes to a majestic close with "Motion Picture Soundtrack", one of the band's best album closers of all time. Although it is about dying and letting go, it is a beautiful song that sends the listener into the abyss of eternal silence.
The emotion of Kid A is both complex and abstract. However, those who embrace Kid A will not be disappointed. I might be one of the few who actually prefers Kid A to OK Computer, but, either way, Radiohead is on an unforgettable journey. Kid A is a milestone in the band's catalogue, setting the stage for further innovation in the world of music. Once Kid A ended, I knew that I wanted more.
How to Disappear Completely
Everything In Its Right Place
Motion Picture Soundtrack
competent review, but do you like anything else than radiohead ?
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This is my favorite Radiohead album, the one that I first listened to, and the album that completely changed my opinion on what music could be. I had never listened to anything like it before, and there never will be anything like it. It has absolutely no flaws whatsoever. From the moment Everything In Its Right Place started, I was in love with it. It has so much atmosphere, so much beauty... oh, sorry, I got really into that description...