Collection: 1. Radiohead - Kid A

Nine years ago this month, Brent DiCrescenzo reviewed Radiohead’s Kid A for this website. As far as its rating, no one blinked. Pitchfork was still a blip then, but if you cared at all about the broad sphere of music that included Radiohead, chances are that you heard something very special in Kid A. It was that exceptional artifact of modern culture– something about which most people could agree. To ears that’d had the second half the 1990s to ingest the rapid developments in electronic music, ears weary of the bankruptcy of post-Nirvana alternative rock, Kid A sounded like a next development in rock music that was both logical and surprising. And, of course, a lot has been written about this record since. “What’s left to be said about Kid A?”, Pitchfork founder Ryan Schreiber wondered when we published our Top 20 Albums of 2000 list. Good question.

First, I go back to the old reasons, the ones that were kicked around from the moment the record hit: Thoughts about millennial techno-dread; fragmentation, broken transmissions, garbled communication; the feeling of helplessness that comes from having access to so much information about the world while not having the power to change any of it; the subtle and dramatic ways that electronics are altering our landscape and our consciousness. And there’s still something there, though in some ways it’s all now more intense. Part of our brains moved online in the last 10 years, and this will continue; it’s not a good or bad thing; it’s just the way it is. Refracting these developments through the prism of Kid A, it still resonates, even if so much has changed since. Radiohead were not only among the first bands to figure out how to use the Internet, but to make their music sound like it, and they kicked off this ridiculously retro decade with the rare album that didn’t seem retro. Kid A– with its gorgeously crafted electronics, sparkling production, and uneasy stance toward the technology it embraces completely– feels like the Big Album of the online age.

But you know what? I almost never think about that stuff. It all feels true, of course, but when I slide Kid A into the CD player (how’s that for a retro image?), something else happens. Once that drawer closes and the first chords of “Everything in Its Right Place” start– those haunting, clicking keyboard textures and Thom Yorke’s warped voice– all these other ideas feel secondary. Instead, I get lost in the dissonant horn blasts of “The National Anthem” and hypnotized between the play of the drones and the hissy beats in “Idioteque”; I feel the deep pang of yearning and sadness with the title track, and I rest during the gorgeous Brian Eno-like interlude of “Treefingers”. I’m listening to a brilliant album by an especially creative rock band functioning at its peak. Such records have strong melodies, exciting chord changes, unexpected arrangements, and tricky rhythms that you want to hear over and over again. Songs. Kid Ahas those, too. Ten of them, all great, here, in this order, working together perfectly. For a record with so much baggage and such a reputation for density, the appeal, in the end, is pretty simple: Other records were catchier or better for dancing or more appealingly nostalgic. But no other record captured the complex feeling of the era in such an elegant and beautiful way. –Mark Richardson / Pitchfork.com

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