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Kid A

"Punk Floyd", is a phrase The Village Voice used shortly after the release of OK Computer to characterize Radiohead. At the time, I felt it was an inexplicably astute assessment of the music Radiohead was producing. With OK Computer Radiohead simply defied words— much less comparison to any of their contemporaries. There were no obvious hit singles, no radio support, no pre-release hype and certainly no expectations; but you've heard all that before. I felt it was only fitting that the band that Radiohead was being held up against was Pink Floyd, a band that was equally innovative and compelling. Quite simply, Radiohead delivered beyond what anyone could’ve ever expected.

Given all the post OK Computer hype that the band was saddled with, they faced the arduous and somewhat overwhelming task of following up the critically acclaimed IT record of the ‘90s; a task that took them two years and a multitude of studios across Europe to complete. The end result, Kid A.

The mystery and anticipation of surrounding the release of Kid A, was rivaled this summer, only by the shroud of secrecy that CBS execs maintained for the final episode of Survivor. Limited advance copies were sent out to a select few in the press and listening parties were held on a limited basis, with Discman’s, complete with headphones, for again a select few.

As is quickly becoming the standard over the last several years, Kid A, started appearing on the internet a two full months before the actual release date. The first tracks available were very poor quality mp3’s from a show the band played in France. Subsequently, these tracks still didn’t give much indication of what loomed on the horizon. The million dollar question still in the minds of everyone was: does the much ballyhooed Kid A deliver?

A year from now, I may feel the need to retract what I’m about to say (Radiohead has the innate ability to do that to you, and I'm prepared for this,) but I’ll say it anyway. Kid A is no Wish You Were Here and definitely not The Wall for a new generation. As a matter of fact, Kid A gets my vote for most over hyped record of the year, right behind Badly Drawn Boy's debut.

Kid A’s opening track "Everything’s In It’s Right Place" sets the tone for what becomes obvious on the next several tracks. Radiohead has become pre-occupied with proving to the world that they are card-carrying members of the avant-garde. With its droning, dirge-like keyboard lines and Thom York’s digitized vocals, the track is very synthetic feeling and dehumanized. Gone is the interplay between Johnny Greenwood’s chaotic, ambient, whalings and Ed O’Brien's masterful guitar work. All of this would be okay if you were listening to an Aphex Twin record but not if you were anticipating the songwriting prowess of The Bends or Ok Computer.

The next two tracks, are so non-accessible, they sound as if they were created as a score for some highly pretentious art class film.

"Kid A" (the song) is overwrought with yet more sonic masturbation. Sounds to me like someone in the Radiohead camp is a big fan of disc 2 of "The White Album", specifically track 7.

"National Anthem" kicks in with a sinewy bassline that wraps around you like morning fog, and doesn’t let go, or get interesting for that matter, until the end of the track when the horns kick in for an Ornette Coleman like jazz improv.

Ironically, the only two stand out tracks on the record, are the aptly titled, "How To Disappear Completely and Never Be Found" and "Optimistic" If you can make it through the first three tracks, you’ll find "How To Disappear Completely" hiding on track four. It takes everything great about OK Computer and The Bends and finally melds it into something vaugely familiar (a welcome distraction at this point). While "Optimistic" is reminiscent of earlier Radiohead with a tinge of Edge-like guitars. The lines, "This one’s optimistic...this one’s optimistic/try the best you can, is good enough" perfectly summarizes this record.

Whereupon OK Computer wasn’t very accessible upon first listen either, at least in the midst of all the chaos there was some structure. It was chaotic, yet focused and cohesive. Kid A sounds like disassociated mix of songs they couldn’t figure out what to do with. It sounds more like a B-Sides record, than much else.

Overall, Kid A, is definitely a record that Radiohead fans will want to have in their collection, if only to say that they have it, and esoteric enough to provide fodder for the "High Fidelity" types. I'm positive the critics and usual Radiohead pundits will laud this as album of the year, but trust me on this one, wait until you can find it used. Thom Yorke was much more believable in his previous foray into electronica, on his collaberation with UNKLE.

-Dave Herrera

Track Listing:

1.Everthing In Its Right Place
2. Kid A
3. The National Anthem
4. How To Disappear Completely
6. Optimistic
7. In Limbo
8. Idioteque
9. Morning Bell
10. Motion Picture Soundtrack

Related Links:

Red Rocks Concert Review
Amnesiac Album Review
Kid A Album Review



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