Sunday, May 03, 2009



Everythiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeng, Everythiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeng,
in its right plaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace, in its riiiiiight plaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace...

Be careful of this record! Once lodged in your cerebrum, ambient pieces will spider-web throughout your brain until it is completely saturated. Some parts you could almost whistle, though the moods stirred by these songs probably won't allow that.

Back in the fall of 2000, I tuned in to a radio broadcast of this remarkable set the week before it was released. In a slightly altered state, anticipation ran high as I braced myself for what the whole thing would sound like.

Stunning noises emanated from the speaker grills.

Exploring the capabilities of synthetic music isn't a new development. When it is done with this much imagination, the listener is drawn in and can't help but take notice. This direction pissed off more than a few people, too. Coming on the heels of releases that embraced guitar oriented arrangements, Kid A doesn't feature any until the fourth song in.

Difficult and beautiful, the layers are there to be peeled away, reconstructed and poured over. The lyrics are inscrutable, with any attempts at interpretation rendered futile. Soundscapes are as icy and bleak as the artwork that graces the cover and booklet. Just listen to those desolate synths in "Everything In its Right Place" and "Kid A". Day 13 of being abandoned in the tundra would have these selections playing over and over as a soundtrack.

Freeform jazz experiments color "The National Anthem" which is anchored by a killer fuzzed bass riff.

Much of this album is so sonically brilliant that it suggests images to accompany the music. "Treefingers" represents the long shadow of a dying, grey fall afternoon as branches are slowly stripped of their leaves by autumn winds. Perfectly suited to the season in which it was originally unleashed, it leads straight away into my absolute favorite track, "Optimistic". Guitar based and somewhat out of place amongst the other selections, it rumbles and stutters, only barely managing to break free of the claustrophobic atmosphere created.

Words really don't do justice to the damage that these songs have inflicted on my nervous system. One of the most challenging sets to be let loose in modern times, "Kid A" gave me hope that there were still individuals in the game with ideas that were far afield of contemporary trends.

Now, was all of this new? Not really. Thom Yorke and his partners in crime were absorbing some extremely complex records, spanning a number of different genres. Open minds will have heard these artists and you can certainly spot some influences in places. Out of the chaos, they managed to fashion completely original compositions with writing that manages to achieve fairly lofty ambitions.

Hard to top.


Jeff said...

Radiohead is truly one of the finest gems of my generation. They continuously push musical boundaries and Kid A is a prime example of that. It's far different from their most critically acclaimed albums, but it's amazing in its own right.

Great review!

Sean Coleman said...

Thank you. They haven't lost their focus, either. In Rainbows was excellent.