On October 2nd, 2000, the world was blessed with an undiscovered and intuitive sonic surprise from the polarizing and forward thinking Abingdon band, Radiohead.
The millennium baby “Kid A” would be their first departure from the iconic, melancholic alt-rock sound that we’ve come to love from the band in their albums: Pablo Honey, The Bends, and Ok Computer. I suppose Thom Yorke and the band grew tired of the generic formula they were placing themselves in, with mainstream success through hit songs, specifically the ubiquitous “Creep”; they were undeniably stuck in a box of fan’s expectations. Although their previous album, “OK Computer” did have a ton of originality, and it is widely recognized as their best album, it could still be comparable to their contemporaries in terms of instrumentation, and didn’t exactly do anything to test the limits of rock music. Kid A was the beginning of Radiohead’s obsession with electronica, looping, and doing everything as non-traditional as possible, and ultimately challenged the way people approached the creation of “rock” music.
Right away, we are sent to a land of both organic and synthetic, with the absolutely haunting piano on the intro track “Everything In Its Right Place” in which Thom’s voice is looped, chopped and screwed to display a sense of obsessive compulsiveness and despair, as the track goes up and down in energy and emotion. This song has been said to be Thom dealing with his depressions between Kid A and Ok Computer, using “Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon” as a mental image of Thom waking up everyday in a sour, un-happy state. Perhaps the idea of having everything in its right place gave Thom a bit of clarity in times where his mind was poisoned with negative thoughts.
I should note that this album has been through a ton of speculation and conspiracy, toying with the idea that it was somehow written as a foreshadowing for the events that took place on 9/11/01. The idea is that from front to back, this album is a soundtrack to what happened on that day, from the calm of the storm in the two opening tracks, to the plane crashing into the twin towers on the explosive 3rd track “The National Anthem” which is a destructive collage of horns, drums, and that iconic bass line that plays under the song as it progresses in its chaos. Immediately after is “How To Disappear Completely“, which is a song that beautifully captures the terrors and immediate realizations of everyone in the world when this horrifying event took place. “I’m not here, this isn’t happening”, the pain in Thom’s voice in this track is haunting and perfectly captures the emotions of someone dealing with a terrible situation that they have no control over. This song has grown to be my favourite Radiohead song, its the kind of song you listen to when you’re feeling down in the dumps, in your living room bundled up in a bunch of blankets as a rain storm trickles on your windows. To continue on the 9/11 theme, “Treefingers” is the ambient, instrumental track that is almost a continuation of How To Disappear Completely, the dreamy/euphoric pads on this take you to a dream world state, almost as if you’re floating through a world of chaos and destruction, and suddenly the world goes quiet as you take in everything you need to do to rebuild and continue your path, this track is meditational and sends you to a place of calmness and resolve.
As we wake up from the dream world we are sent to in the first half of Kid A, the song “Optimistic” sobers up the mind with a familiar Radiohead sound, a rolling drum beat is complimented with guitar riffs as Thom sings about the comfort of Optimism. “You can try the best you can, you can try the best you can, the best is good enough.” This song hits close to home for me sentimentally, as I remember my dad used to play this album for me when I was 8 years old, I used to ask him to play the “big fish little fish” song, and I can’t thank him enough for planting this album in my sponge of a brain at the time, as this album was definitely a center piece in my taste in music. “In Limbo” brings us back to the dream-like state this album is flooded with, as this incredibly melancholic song deals with the idea of being trapped in your ego, or “living in a fantasy world”, and also foreshadowing the track “Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors” on Kid A’s brother album “Amnesiac” with the line “Trap doors that open”, which can be interpreted as an ego trap as well.
On the most electronic sounding departure for the band, “Idioteque“, we are hit with a jagged, discomforting syncopated drum loop that is the main sonic focus of the entire track. Thom uses his nasally, whiney voice to sing about impending global warming and the ignorance of the human race. “This is really happening, this is really happening”. On perhaps one of the most beautiful songs of all time, “Motion Picture Soundtrack“, the band departs the album to a heaven-like state as an angelic organ plays and sends the listener to the after life, in the most blissful way possible. What an absolutely perfect way to end an album with such an array of emotion and euphoria. On a personal note, this album is very close to me as it turned me into a strong believer that music can alter your emotions and take you into worlds that could only be conceived in your dreams, I used to fall asleep to this album every night during high school, and it will always bring me back to the memories I had growing up as a kid (see what I did there, hehe).
I’m interested in hearing other’s experiences with this album, so leave a comment down below and let me know how this album took place, and affected your life, I know this album means quite a lot to many, and has helped many through tough times and tribulations. Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts on the album 🙂