Well, what were you expecting? An exact hybrid of ‘OK Computer’ and ‘The Bends’? How were Radiohead meant to follow-up ‘OK Computer’ anyhow? Any follow-up in the same kind of style would have been a very difficult thing to do, and in any event, would have lacked any surprise of the new, whatsoever. ‘Kid A’ upon release dismayed a few, delighted a few – and also went on to top the charts in the US, a very difficult thing for any UK band to achieve in the present climate, even if you are a band as respected as Radiohead. As far as the sounds that ‘Kid A’ presents then? Throw in some Jazz influences and you’ll get some kind of serious, weighty list of artists that influenced Radiohead prior to this albums recording. There is less emphasis on both vocals and lyrics here than Radiohead albums of the past, and more emphasis on the musical soundscapes. The opener ‘Everything In It’s Right Place’ for instance has a simple keyboard melody, cool weaving in and out vocal sounds from Thom, before moving effortlessly into the Aphex Twin ambient stylings of the title song. Waiting for some guitar? Well, will bass guitar do? ‘The National Anthem’ has one hell of a bass riff underpinning the electronica noise and melody. Dissonance taken from avant-garde Jazz appears later in the song, and this piece in particular is very striking. ‘How To Disappear Completely’ is classic Radiohead, a ballad – desolate and with truly beautiful vocal sounds. The four-minute so ambient it almost isn’t there ‘Treefingers’ may be seen as filler, but it plays its part in constructing the album.
This is an album that flows extremely well. A lot of thought and time was obviously put into the song selection and running order. ‘Optimistic’ features guitars, is most akin to Radiohead of the past, thus got played on the radio quite a bit. It pales into comparison with the guitar led highlights of Radiohead’s past – was never gonna be a single but given the ‘weird’ electronica stylings of much of this album, provided radio programmers something to latch onto, in any event. What else were they supposed to do? Office workers don’t want to hear something dissonant whilst drinking their coffee 10.45am in the morning. Office workers have a lot to answer for in this world. And mechanics, too. And milkmen. Can you whistle to it? No? Take that damn crap off the radio then! What are you trying to do me, make me actually think, wonder – feel actual emotion other than dead straight-faced clarity? Guys like me like the confusion, and never earn very much money. An absolute highlight arrives when ‘Idioteque’ comes clattering in amid electronica techno beats and spooky noises. Thom sounds urgent, sounds fantastic. I love how the album flows from ‘Optimistic’ to ‘In Limbo’ – You go from being feeling good about yourself to down right extremely confused, depressed. I just love it how it gets complicated here. You can also look from the religion’s angle. I remember watching ‘Inception’ movie in theater, and thought about ‘In Limbo’ song when Leonardo Di Caprio’s character gets caught in Limbo of dreams.
‘Morning Bell’ is an absolute beauty, and like ‘The National Anthem’ shows what a great rhythm section Radiohead have developed. Great drum work here in particular. The closing ‘Motion Picture Soundtrack’ is truly a beautiful thing, not much of a ‘song’ as such, just this lo-fi keyboard melody and atmosphere, but it makes me cry.