Sure, Kid A has been scrutinized, parodied, and backlashed against in every way possible, but when it comes down to it, it is still one of the greatest and most influential albums of the generation. From the jumbled opening vocals of “Everything in its Right Place” to the haunting silence at the end of “Motion Picture Soundtrack,” it is simply beautiful. But lets take a look back on what it meant for music at the time, so we can perhaps delve into what it still means for music.
It was 2000. Radiohead was three years removed from OK Computer, the album that had set Radiohead into alternative rock (if that still means anything) stardom. We hadn’t heard anything from the band in over a year except for Ed O’Brien’s diary on the recording process that started back in 1999. The album was clearly from a dark place (such darkness that we saw in the tour-film Meeting People is Easy).
“shit happens” as keef once famously said. and so it does. well it did today………..it’s difficult to say whether we’ve been here before, possibly not. and of course i m being deliberately vague about the whole thing ……but sometimes you have to be. anyway before one kneejerks and starts saying all manner of things you have to let the proverbial dust settle. sorry but you can only be so open.
Yet, that summer, via Napster and dial-up internet, the album leaked to the internet, one long download at a time. It was a curve ball to people. The band that had released an alternative staple 3 years prior, now dropping their guitars and picking up synthesizers, samplers and whatever the hell an ondes Martenot was.
Additionally, the advertising for it was unheard of at the time, yet makes complete sense in today’s mediafire world. No singles, no videos. Only online videos (blips) released to the internet, that fans could put on sites and blogs. The press called in suicide, and yet the album charted (back when it still meant something) number one in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, New Zealand and Ireland. It was nominated for Album of the Year by the Grammys, won Alternative Album of the Year, and in 2009, made the rounds of many best-of-the-decades lists.
More personally, I wasn’t around for any of this. I was a seven year old kid, unaware of Radiohead, alternative rock, or essentially music in general. It wasn’t until In Rainbows, released when I was becoming musically aware, that Radiohead made the distinct impact in my life. So as I listened to every one of the Oxford 5-somes albums, Kid A struck me as something phenomenal. Sure, I had listened to In Rainbows, so the album wasn’t a complete oddity to me, but just the way that they combined experimentation with traditional song structure was something I couldn’t ignore. This truly was the greatest album of all time. Something I still hold true to this day.