“Yo Dude, you’ve got to check out Radiohead,” a friend said to me back in 2007. That phrase led me down a musical rabbit hole littered with classic albums, life changing experiences, and musical enlightenment. I didn’t get to Kid A right away. First came In Rainbows, which tore my brain to shreds a hundred times over. Then came OK Computer, which put my heart in a microwave, and then I finally met Kid A. Six years later, all of its dark electronic glory still sits on the throne as one of my absolute favorite albums of all time.
The electronic abyss of the opening song, the poignant vocoder on the title track, the blaring horns on “The National Anthem”, the spastic beat on “Idioteque” and countless other momentous elements of Kid A render it an absolute auditory mammoth. The dark moods, commanding ambiance, and lush vibes built a world of their own and absolutely changed the one we all live in (music-wise at least). Start to finish, head to tail, back to front, every which way, this album is a total masterpiece.
The very first descending chord of “Everything In Its Right Place” was all it took to make me fall before Kid A in awe. I sat wrestling with the reality that what I was listening to had been created by humans just like myself with instruments that were made on the same planet I was living on. I sat perplexed at how something so beautifully flawless could have ever been made, let alone conceived! My mind bent, warped, and twisted, as I wondered with all my might where inspiration for such a behemoth could have come from and how on earth Radiohead had managed to tap into something so intergalactic and yet so timely and relatable. An album like this being released during the first year of a new millennium seemed like some sort of insane sci-fi prophecy. After the initial shock and disbelief wore off, I just devoured it time after time. I listened every day, analyzing each song for the smallest details, observing it at a near-psychotic level. This brought greater appreciation but no answers. To this day I am at a complete loss of understanding how this album was created.
Each element of each song is on point. The guitars are big in all the right places and even bigger when they aren’t there at all. The bass rips and rides each track with majesty, and the percussion is so marvelously grand that if it were something to see I would be forced to look away because of how menacingly bright and gorgeous it would be. The lyrics are poetry that could be printed and read without the music behind it, and Thom Yorke’s vocals put forth these lyrics more expressively than any of Radiohead’s other releases, dancing and winding on each track with a pristine and layered authority. Besides all of the puzzle pieces being nearly perfect, it’s how they come together that really drove me to adore this record. No other record has the atmosphere of Kid A. The frantic pulse of “Idioteque” and the seeping, shadow-like tundra of “Treefingers” are just two of the more extreme examples of these ingenious soundscapes. The flow from song to song is also faultless. Each track melts into the next, changing gears unexpectedly but exactly as you’d want it to. The final song is a tornado of emotions and when Thom Yorke finally signs off by promising to see me in the next life. He’s 100% correct because I’m instantly killed and born again.
As both my musical taste and my life change, I find myself looking back to Kid A without fail. The energy I’m met with while listening to this album is the most human feeling I can describe, despite it sounding anything but human. The melodies tap into an essence of my being not reached through other albums. After listening for so long, each song holds strong emotional context for me: glory, misery, desire, failure, exhilaration, all of which fill me again and again each time I listen. I’ve experienced some of the most important things in my life with this record playing out loud or in my brain, and the way that I hear it now is a reflection of myself and a reminder of how intense human experiences can be. After years of obsessively seeking out music, I realize now that I’m only chasing the dragon. Listening to Kid A all the way through is something that won’t ever be matched. This album is an axiom.
Radiohead’s latest record, The King Of Limbs, came out in 2011, but as of recently, Thom Yorke has been working on a new project, Atoms for Peace. The band consists of Yorke, Nigel Godrich (Radiohead’s long-time producer), Flea (from Red Hot Chili Peppers), Joey Waronker and Mauro Refosco. The album is extremely well made, and while it’s no Kid A, you should still definitely give it a listen! Atoms for Peace are spending the year touring their debut album. Be sure to catch them if they swing by your city!
I think I could name check three hundred bands who have drawn influence from Kid A and Radiohead in general. Radiohead has spanned so many different musical flavors over the years that their influence echoes almost everywhere at this point. Some albums that have vibes somewhat similar to Kid A are Untrue by Burial, Pleasure by Pure X, Down There by Avey Tare and You Are All I See by Active Child. These are some of my favorite albums of all time.