The Defining Sound of The Millennium

Kid A is a record surrounded in questioning. It is a record that was, on its release, questioned, and is still questioned today by those who do not understand it or do not want to. It’s one of the most talked about records in music history, and for this fact alone, it must have had something right about it.

Question 1: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The influence of Kid A, the album or the influence of Kid A, the media interpretation. It was released to the words of ‘alienating’ and ‘avant garde.’ Everywhere in the mainstream music press, these words were being used to describe the new direction of a band who dominated the whole world three years earlier with OK Computer. Occurrences like this happen in music, very rarely, but they happen. Once every green moon or so, something so different and unique comes out that breaks the barriers, challenges the formula and halts the run-of-the-mill so much so, that it throws everyone off-kilter and knocks them off their (avant) guard. Give it a few more years and Kid A will be crowned: the defining sound of the millennium.

Question 2: Who does Kid A alienate? Fans of music, or fans of genre? Up until this LP, Radiohead had been a rock/indie band, though consistently quirky and never straightforward. They have always hinted at brave new soundscapes throughout their career, from the haunting guitar noises of ‘Bullet Proof… I Wish I Was’ to the experimentation with timing and structure of ‘Paranoid Android’ and the ingenius use of computers on ‘Fitter Happier.’ Kid A arrives and it’s not guitar-rock anymore, it’s not all 4/4 and it’s not all formulaic, we’re not in Kansas anymore and those fans of genre are afraid to listen to something new, alienated by their own reluctance to accept a new idea, the truth hurts, tough cookies.

Before branding it, understanding it helps. The album is a collection of pristine songs, not crazy concepts for the sake of art. There wasn’t a conscious decision to piss everybody off and rebel against the fans, the media and music altogether by making something unlistenable, it was just no one chose to listen to it, they just heard it and dismissed it before trying to comprehend it. You’d have thought these people had never heard Pink Floyd or Aphex Twin or Squarepusher, Kraftwerk, Chemical Brothers, Beethoven, Oscar Peterson or any of these innovators of sound before, but those artists got it in the balls too…

Question 3: What about the music? Real horrorshow, droogs! Absolutely fabulous! Name a better opening sound than the first four notes of ‘Everything In Its Right Place’ and I’ll give you a prize. Goosebumps every time. ‘Kid A’ the song, conjures images in the mind of space and colour, two colours in my mind, as the lyrics tell the Pied-Piper-esque tale. ‘The National Anthem,’ now if that’s not rocking (whilst still being a testament to existentialism and isolation) and headsmashingly brilliant, what the bloody-fuck is, you stubborn snobs? Certain people (or NME, whoops!) said there was no emotion committed to the record, did they hear ‘How To Disappear Completely’? Maybe they just couldn’t connect with the deep and intense level of emotion conveyed, tut and tut!

‘Treefingers,’ cut together by Thom Yorke from a long Ed O’Brien guitar session is soft and soothing, while ‘Optimistic’ is as the title implies, and it’s a Radiohead song? Yes! On Kid A? Yes! Then you are left ‘In Limbo,’ hanging there happily, living in a fantasy until ‘Idioteque’ comes on. It’s impossible to deny the genius of the best song ever created so don’t even try. Compiling those tremendous computer chords of Paul Lansky’s ‘Mild Und Liese’ with the scarily relatable lyrics of Yorke’s, sung in that powerful and moving, unrivalled tone of his. ‘Morning Bell’ is another awe-inspiring piece of music, shiny and superb. Then the album cools off with last track, ‘Motion Picture Soundtrack’ like any good exit music for a film, it leaves the listener with a sense of fulfilment and a grin the size of Jupiter, Radiohead, depressing? No, uplifting.

To summarise, it’s music made from madness, relaxation in sound created from the chaos of reality, beauty conceived in the ugliest depths of insanity, music as a means of therapy, a result of Radiohead putting everything in it’s right place.

A billion words could be thrown at this record and still not come close to describing it, do yourself a favour, buy it, listen to it and never look back. Kid A, eh? Phwah!