Kid A+

Just some thoughts on a little big album released just around this time five years ago...

It seems like anyone who really knows Kid A can tell you how revolutionary it was in the rock world (not an exaggeration -- Radiohead might not have done anything too different from say, Can, but this time EVERYONE noticed), or how it either destroyed all their love for Radiohead or multiplied it exponentially, or how "Everything in Its Right Place" never fails to put you in a twitchy state of complacent paranoia.

What amazes me most about this album is how Radiohead managed to take a baseball bat to song structure, barely mumble some already very obtuse lyrics, experiment with otherworldly electronic noise, and STILL make what is essentially a fantastic rock album. "National Anthem" both bludgeons you with cacophony and pulls you into an irresistible groove, "Idioteque" is moshing disco for the bloodthirsty, and "Motion Picture Soundtrack" has Thom crooning a yearning, sing-you-to-sleep love song (even though it sounds like it's being sung to HAL or something). For every off-pitch tinkle in "Kid A" and anasthetic drone in "Treefingers," there is a catchy power-riff in "Optimistic" and grooving bodily sway to "Morning Bell."

Radiohead managed to stay, essentially, still Radiohead. And though the drasticness of the change caused them to lose a chunk of their fanbase, it didn't affect their record sales in the slightest. Many more picked up on the genius that was Kid A, and its follow-up, Amnesiac, sold even more in its debut week.

Kid A is my favorite Radiohead release. It is also one of the best albums of the decade so far, and even one of my favorite albums of all-time; if anything because it is so incredibly communicative -- even while remaining so incredibly mysterious. There is more to this record than the bevy of musical ideas Thom and his buddies think up.

Most fascinatingly to me, there is a bewildering impersonal warmth to it. As much as Thom Yorke insisted on being Mr. Doomsday at the time of its release, one can't help but feel a sense of an incredibly childlike hope deep, deep inside of this album. Whether this hope is more bitterly sarcastic than genuine is certainly debatable, and clearly the album is laden with premonitions of the apocalypse. On the surface, it seems that the sparkling electronic bubbling that finishes the album is the ultimate sarcastic moment that seals the deal for humanity as Radiohead knows it. But after repeated listens, I can't quite settle with this simplistic view of the record. And I can't pinpoint why not, either. Maybe it's the yearning of the strings in "How to Disappear Completely," or the ethereal, motherlike comfort of "Treefingers," or the way Thom's voice trembles in "Motion Picture Soundtrack." But the album as a whole glows with something unmistakably human, as though it were pregnant with a real flesh-and-blood Kid B.

Hmmm, potential 2006 release? I like it.

listening: "In Limbo" - Radiohead


At 11:33 AM, Blogger ian said...

I'll KILL you.

Damn, I love that album. I remeber what Borders on what day in what month I bought it.

At 11:58 AM, Anonymous Scott said...

the newer version of extraordinary machine sucks compared to the Brion sessions. Fact. And your style of writing is annoying and too opinionated.

At 4:20 AM, Blogger Vic said...

Fact: I'm not catering my blog to hundreds of randoms who may-or-may-not like Thrice, like you. It's my blog because it gives me a forum to be annoying and opinionated without reservation. Duh.


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