Kid A


Capitol Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


The Internet is easier to log on to. You no longer see that pale faced record store patron wiping his or her sweaty palms. Yes, for some music geeks out there, October 3 was a special day. For some, myself partially, the questions were going to get answered about one of the most anticipated follow-up albums in the last ten years. And no, it wasn't Green Day's album that people were waiting for.

Radiohead's Kid A has arrived and some Radiohead fans are already discarding the album as an indulgent experiment and pining away until the "more traditional, guitar-oriented" Radiohead album arrives next year. However, most Radiohead fans know this is the same way a lot of fans felt when OK Computer first came out.

To put rumors aside, Kid A isn't unlistenable. It is not an angry lash-out to alienate fans that were new patrons to the OK Computer corral. Come to think of it, the band still only sold less than two million copies in the U.S. That is an awesome feat, but in the diamond-obsessed platinum market out there, those that picked up OK Computer and loved it will likely take a risk with my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Kid A.

Unlike OK Computer and The Bends, Kid A is missing what defined Radiohead: squalling guitars of Johnny Greenwood and Ed O'Brien and the full impact of Thom Yorke's voice. Both musical elements are intact, but require much closer attention. The first two songs don't even qualify for traditional songs. You hear blurbs, zips and what sounds like a tripped-out Kermit moaning on the title track. It is only during the third song that the guitars really kick in. But then they disappear just as quickly as they formed.

Don't worry though, Kid A has enough to linger with listeners after the first spin. The beautiful, ambient sonics of the title track, the calmness of "Morning Bell," odd as it may seem, will lock in your head just like a Backstreet rhythm. If you're a rocker, the fuzzy guitar riff of "The National Anthem" will merit repeated listens. And if you're a melodic fan, "Optimistic" may be one of the most pretty songs the band has ever recorded.

Much has already been analyzed by the lyrical content of Kid A already. "Yesterday I wound up sucking on a lemon" is the most quoted line so far in Kid A. Could that be because that's one of the most decipherable lines in the album? Thom Yorke's voice is so distinctive that much of the lyrical content is going to be over-analyzed and scrutinized. But fans and critics who gripe that Kid A is too difficult are forgetting how long it took for The Bends and OK Computer to settle in.

Kid A is a difficult album to listen to, thank god. In an ever-more increasing environment where albums are becoming more and more marketing products than musical statements, Radiohead has put out an album that makes it feel good to be a music lover again. Drummer Phil Selway and bassist Colin Greenwood provide much-needed rhythmic stopping points during "The National Anthem" and "In Limbo." In fact, the 2/3 of Kid A could qualify as a trippy buildup to "Idioteque," "Morning Bell" and "Motion Picture Soundtrack."

If you let it, Kid A will find a way into your subconscious and keep you returning. As a result, this difficult album will fit nicely in between OK Computer and the next Radiohead masterpiece. Word of advice however: stake your claims to Kid A now. Seven years down the road, you will have bragging rights next time you go into a record store and spout off, "I always thought Kid A was their best album." Trust me, like Paul's Boutique, great albums are sometimes mistook for cast-off side projects designed to alienate a fan base that never needed alienated to begin with.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A


© 2000 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.