Kid A
Record label: Capitol
Format: CD
Release date: 3 October 2000

Don't even try to convince me that this wasn't a ballsy move. You know as well as i do that they could've made another OK Computer and everyone would've been happy. But apparently, Thom Yorke got a hold of some Aphex Twin and gleefully turned his trousers into a fudge factory. Some of this stuff sounds like it could be on a Warp Records compilation. And while there are more guitars on this album than the digital naysayers would have you believe, the electronic quotient makes itself known right from the opener, "Everything In Its Right Place." Analog synths surround Thom's elastic vocals, bouncing and snapping back on a whim. Even on the title cut, the digital crackle of his voice manages to sound heartfelt, which is not easy to do while singing lyrics like "we've got heads on sticks / you've got ventriloquists..." "Idioteque" makes for one of the album's best songs, wrapped in Richard D. James allure with cryptic verses reminiscent of Underworld's Karl Hyde.

Meanwhile over in guitar land, "The National Anthem" crunches with a fuzz overtone, giving way to a punchy horn section that spirals off into free jazz territory. "Optimistic" serves its purpose as the default single (seeing as how the band didn't release one) - and a very good one at that. The quiet strum and strings of "How To Disappear Completely" sets the stage for Thom's stance of isolation. When he sings "I'm not here, this isn't happening," he sounds as if he's somewhere between separation of self and denial, and segues perfectly into the alienated feel of "Treefingers," the dissonant ambient track of the LP.

By the time you get to "Motion Picture Soundtrack," with its cascading harps and choral voices, you realize that Kid A was far from a bad trip. I still can't see many Radiohead fans mentioning this album in the same breath as The Bends or OK Computer, but hopefully they'll come to treat it like a fine wine that gets better with age. While I wouldn't say that it's necessary to have a love for electronic music in order to enjoy this album, it certainly does help. So for those of you who were totally pissed off by this musical about face, never fear: Radiohead will be back to their radio-friendly selves come April.

{downtempo don}
  • purchase this album and listen to samples at CD Now.
  • visit the official Radiohead Web site.

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