Radiohead: Kid A

I have an odd little story about Radiohead that has nothing to do with anything, especially Kid A. I was invited to a Capitol Records listening party in maybe 1992, where a bunch of dimwits from the label played their upcoming releases and asked our opinion. The first song they played was "Creep" by Radiohead, and I was floored. Each successive artist got worse and worse, and my comments grew more and more scathing, to the point where I asked the host why the label was even still in business when it was obviously run by a bunch of deaf imbeciles. It was probably six months before "Creep" was released, and the song had taken such mythical proportions in my head that I was certain I'd be disappointed when I heard it again. Nope. It was just as good as I'd remembered.

Music: 1.5 EPFL library cards out of a possible 5
This ain't "Creep," baby. I'm a big fan of experimental music, but the downside to experimentation is that every success stems from dozens of failures. These songs sound like the failures. There are one or two songs on Kid A that are pretty good, as long as you don't compare them to good Radiohead songs. There are a few moments where the experiments kinda sorta almost succeed, especially if you're distracted by talking on the phone or beating your thumb with a hammer. And then there's the rest of the album, which is on par with the ambient noodling that every jackass seemed compelled to record in the late '90s.

I wholeheartedly recommend that you skip Kid A and instead pick up OK Computer and Tim Hecker's Harmony in Ultraviolet next time you're at the Pratt Library. Together, these two albums succeed at all of Kid A's failures.

Packaging: 2.5 EPFL library cards out of a possible 5
The package is gorgeous, but it's ultimately pointless. The printing is beautiful, and the way every page is a bit different -- some are translucent vellum and some fold out -- makes the booklet feel like a tiny piece of art. But when you look at what's printed on the paper, the images are just as limited and shallow as the music.

Listen if you like: basking in the approval of rock snobs who lack the ability to form their own opinions and cannot recognize the difference between innovation and garbage.

If it were food, it'd be: Grape Kool-Aid


The Mad Hatter said...

I understand what you're saying, although I hope one of the "pretty good" songs you're referring to is "How to Disappear Completely." One of my favorites from all of their albums.

Like you, I hated most of this when it came out. In retrospect, this and Amnesiac seemed designed to be necessary musical evolutionary steps for Radiohead instead of as music intended for our aural consumption. Having said that, there are still several tracks on this album that are complete fucking gobbidge -- "Treefingers" being the stupidest of them. But all in all, it's grown on me, though this and Amnesiac are still bottom-feeders. Amnesiac, sadly, I see as failures of the could-not-make-it-onto-Kid-A variety.

As for "Creep," I thought it was okay way back when, but thoroughly despise it. In fact, I pretty much pretend Pablo Honey doesn't exist.

Oh, and the artwork, to refer to the OK post -- the artwork here is completely stupid.

taotechuck said...

"How to Disappear Completely" is the only reason the album didn't get a lower score than it did.

Some of the most necessary steps in a person's life are often some of the ugliest. I'll give you that Radiohead may have needed this album to grow, but do we give it extra consideration because it was transitional? Rattle and Hum transitioned U2 between their two most different (and probably greatest) albums, and while I like it more now than I did when it came out, it's still a fairly weak album.

And as for "Creep," it's a great song but not a great Radiohead song, if that makes any sense.

My reviews of Hail to the Thief and In Rainbows are coming next week. Aren't you excited?

The Mad Hatter said...

No, I wouldn't say extra consideration. But it certainly highlights their creative processes, I think. Much like Zappa fell in love with his Synclavier and disbanded the Mothers, saying he became less interested in the human element, KId A is a similar, it not explicitly stated, sentiment by Radiohead.

And while I do think it is a weak album -- for them -- I would probably surprise you at how well I did like it. Which is why I'm especially looking forward to your upcoming reviews of them. Radiohead fans are a little more insulated, I think, in their adulation; and so I like to see dissent, like here.