"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
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
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.
1.Everthing In Its Right Place
2. Kid A
3. The National Anthem
4. How To Disappear Completely
7. In Limbo
9. Morning Bell
10. Motion Picture Soundtrack
Rocks Concert Review
Kid A Album Review
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