“Oh you’re reviewing Radiohead! Wait… Why not OK Computer?”
Well my answer is that I don’t choose the sodding albums! That being said, Kid A is a really interesting place to jump in with the Radiohead chronology; background is very necessary. After the release of OK Computer, front man Thom Yorke suffered a mental breakdown. Before this, music was a method of personal expression for him but suddenly it was something to be pumped out and expected; Radiohead were expected to make another OK Computer and so of course they didn’t. This is oversimplified sure, but I only write 500 word reviews.
The divergence took a few different ideas; embrace electronic music and it’s broad spectrum, you can hear a lot of stuff that sounds very similar to Brian Eno. Another was to strip out the idea of melody a lot, to concentrate on rhythm and chords and use the human voice in a more instrumental way. The music isn’t 100% atonal but certainly dances around this point.
The album opens with an “experimental” couple of tracks, Everything In Its Right Place with its deep, rhythmic synth carrying the beat and the vocals merely singing ideas over the top. Radiohead’s sound has changed! Kid A just serves to support this further with an almost music-box style opening with synth bells beating out all over the place. The vocals are completely distorted and it serves as a quite haunting slow contemplative piece all in all. Everything gets more and more strange sounding generally with The National Anthem sounding like someone is murdering Sweep from the Sooty show toward the end. So it becomes clear… the album has a level of “critic baiting”, no one can say they failed to live up to OK Computer because the album is so fundamentally different in style.
So far I have discussed the modification in style a lot and not focused on the album itself. It has a hugely ethereal quality, haunting and quite beautiful, sure it’s “experimental” in places but a cleverly written and constructed. Idioteque, which has come to be somewhat a revered favourite just serves to prove this, continuing the purposefully obscure sound.
For those who can’t hold any patience with the different sound, Optimistic, sticks closer to the alternative rock routes and is arguably the most tonal and conventional track in the album.
Overall, a hell of a lot of heart went into this album and that is clear but due the style, Kid A has a massively cerebral side to it too.
“Oh they went to that chord….interesting choice.”
It may not be in everyone’s rotation but for many it will be stored as “the album I will listen to when I am in that mood.”
Is this album for you?
Likely not for many people. It’s departure from conventional styles is basically designed to divide opinion; indeed there’s no doubt that in the “alternative rock” genre, the word “ALTERNATIVE” is in capitals. I think if you can – overall – Kid A is a very rewarding experience.
- Writing: 8.5/10
- Performance: 8.5/10
- Style: 9/10