The thing you have to understand about Kid A
is that this is not your typical Radiohead album. In fact it's pretty much the epitome of atypical. It's a concept album, following OK Computer's
concept of fearing a world where technology rules all. On Kid A
, the people have to deal with that world. Thom Yorke has said that Kid A is the name of what the first human clone will be. It's a concept that backs up Radiohead's paranoid ways, not to mention the positively apocalyptic pictures that are scattered throughout the CD cover booklet. In place of lyrics, overall feel of songs are displayed in jagged, dark, eery portraits of the world after the nuclear holocaust. This is the environment Kid A grows up in. Radiohead's music backs it up to, being just as eery and dark as the coverbooklet of the CD that comes with it. Creepy keyboards and winds populate the album, with audible guitars only existing in 5 or 6 tracks. This monumental change in direction nearly split the band in half. Guitarist Ed O' Brien had trouble adjusting to the fact that he would have to somehow participate without plucking a damn note, while Jonny Greenwood noodled away on electronics. This from the man who added the guitar scratches in the nauseatingly overexposed single "Creep" in order to sabotage the song. This guy isn't usually that happy with Radiohead's music. Kid A
isn't exactly the perfect remedy for unhappy guitarists.
But what is the overall sound like? It's still as gutwrenching and heartfelt as OK Computer
, if not more so. It's far more experimental, as the instruments brought in for the album range from a string orchestra, to a New Orleans jazz band, to a harp, to a beat-boxer. Weird? Not for Radiohead. The band has always been known for the what-the-hell-will-they-think-up next albums. The bands sound has eternally progressed, and Kid A
is the grand crescendo of the bands sound, the final hurrah of WTF. One of the main changes taking place in Kid A
is the practical abandonment of Thom Yorke's vocals. They're still there, but far less noticeable or distinguishable as on previous Radiohead albums. The lyrics are just as punishing and just as brilliant, but the thing is is that you have to really search for them and decipher them throughout the dribble to catch them. Lines like "Rats and children follow me out of town..." and "Big fish eat little fish, not my problem." are darkly cynical, typical genius, but part of the allure is that you have to search to find them. An album challenging the listener to appreciate it's genius? that's not supposed to happen. The satirical opener states "Everything is in it's right place". On Kid A
, pretty much nothing is in it's right place.
For all the experimenting with techno and ditching various key instruments in songs, Kid A
manages to remain Radiohead. You have a couple of rock tracks on here to soothe your non-progressive mind. The National Anthem
, the first track that remotely sounds like a rock song, manages to incorporate a marching band, build in a vast crescendo, put Yorke's voice in a tin can, and have it all end by crashing into a wall, all while bassist Colin Greenwood plays the same riff over and over again. It should sound like chaos with all these musical ideas bouncing off of eachother, and it does by the time the trumpet solo goes on a rampage. But chaos and creation are cunningly in the same vein, and by the end of the song, you're in awe of such a jam session. And the good thing is, most of the album is in this form. Sound nothing like the safe and crafted structure of OK Computer
? Good. It doesn't have to. It's genius in it's own right, but old Radiohead fans looking to grab some more will be in for a treat. For the love of God, there's a dancehall track for crying out loud! Radiohead has never particularly made me want to boogie, and this will probably not be for me at all. But as always, dear reader, Radiohead proves you wrong. Idioteque
is the track in question here, and it's completely not your good old acoustic rock Bends
. It is a dance track, done way over the top on purpose, because whenever Radiohead has an idea that sounds remotely upbeat, lyrics and (on this album) electronics end that notion. Idioteque
consists of lines like "I'll laugh until my head comes off, women and children first" and "We're not scaremongering, this is really happening." Paranoia? Of course, what else did you expect?
Sounds like Kid A
is way too out there to be real? It almost sounds that way. But as for the clockstoppers out there, Radiohead has accounted for you too. They even -God be praised- have an acoustic song. How To Disappear Completely
is just as epic and heart wrenching as notable acoustic tracks on past albums, "Fake Plastic Trees" and "Exit Music (For A Film)". Ironically all three tracks are the fourth song (Knowing Radiohead, I'm sure that means something or has some other-worldly signifagance, I'm just too tired to understand it). How To Disappear Completely
, contains completely understandable, and as always marvelous lyrics ("I'm not here, This isn't happening", "In a little while I'll be gone, the moment's passed it's already gone"), and some beautiful sliding electronics that tear at your inner chords. That's good old fashioned Radiohead for you. But for you clockstoppers, that's all you get. Kid A
is really focused on not being that mainstream at all, really going just Radiohead doing whatever they feel like. They put songs in wicked time signatures (Morning Bell
is in 10/8), throw in a jazz band, go totally keyboard heavy, have an instrumental interlude consisting of wind on a 10 track album, and even find the time to throw in a hidden track. Holy hell, Radiohead outdid themselves.
So what should you, dear reader, think of Kid A
? This is so strange, so disembodied from OK Computer
and The Bends
, that you might wonder how anything that far away from genius can still be amazing. The simple answer is: It just is. Through the magic of electricity, Radiohead has accomplished making one of the finest albums of the millenium, if not the best of the year 2000. You don't always need guitars to have an epic rock album. In any langauge, it's the epitome of alt-rock. It has excellent musicianship whenever the band members pop up, and Thom Yorke's signature vibratto and lyrics only make it all the more grand. Although clocking in at just under 50 minutes, it still feels like a quick listen, because lets face it, a beatless electronica interlude could have been skipped. Other than a disappointing length, there's really not a damn thing wrong with this album. It's tight, and so un-Radioheadly that it deserves at least 5 spins. It might take that long before you really get it. I suppose what Kid A
is saying is that you need to learn to accept us, because we have spent all our lives accepting you. This is really happening.
The National Anthem
How To Disappear Completely
Motion Picture Soundtrack
While the band manages to completely abandon their old sound, they adapt to this new one with expertise and precision.
Drumming is really good when it pops up.
Yorkes vocals and lyrics never cease to amaze me
Some may find it too short
It's hard to adapt to at first (Though that may not be a bad thing)
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