웃 i am not here and this is not really happening.
October 2, 2015 11:45 AM   Subscribe

After the triumph of OK Computer, Radiohead fell into a creative tailspin -- and frontman Thom Yorke into a nervous breakdown. Exhausted from touring, hounded by press, and jaded by copycats, he escaped into the electronica scene pioneered by Kraftwerk and Warp Records -- fertile ground, the band discovered. Trading spacey rock for apocalyptic brooding, they teased their new sound not with singles or music videos but with innovative web streaming and cryptic, dreamlike "blips" -- winterlands, flocks of cubes, eyeballs, bears. After nearly breaking up over tracklist angst, they cut the kid in half. Thus fifteen years ago today, Kid A and (later) Amnesiac debuted, a confounding mix of electronic fugue, whalesong, pulsing IDM, drunken piano, and epic jazz funeral whose insights into anxiety, political dysfunction, and climate crisis would make it one of the most revered albums of the twenty-first century. See the documentary Reflections on Kid A for interviews and live cuts, or look inside for much more.

Alternative album links: Kid A - Amnesiac

TVTropes: Kid A - Amnesiac

From Tumblr user patrickscarn, full scans of all the liner art for Kid A and Amnesiac. See also: Kid A's "hidden" booklet

A longer compilation of Kid A's blips, or in playlist form (or a downloadable one). The University of Washington's Joseph Tate wrote at length about the campaign: Radiohead's Antivideos: Works of Art in the Age of Electronic Reproduction. Tate also maintains fansite Pulk-Pull.org, which collects several hundred posts of musings and theories.

Wanna beanplate? Enjoy Dr. Marianne Letts' book-length dissertation: How to Disappear Completely: Radiohead and the Resistant Concept Album [PDF]. Or if you prefer Amnesiac, try John Darnielle's defense of the album (navigation in the bottom-right corner; discussed previously).

Or take it from the horse's mouth: MTV's web interviews - interview clips from the documentary Reflections on Kid A - the band discusses Amnesiac

More recently, the fans of /r/indieheads reminisce

Notable album covers: If you prefer live, there's a fantastic set from Jools Holland in 2001 featuring Kid/Amnesiac tracks plus a sampling of older material. Includes: Jonny discombobulating the bejeesus out of Thom with his little sampling gizmo on EIIRP! A great take on Dollars & Cents! Talk Show Host! The best version of Life in a Glasshouse, with full backing for the first and only time live from the Humphrey Lyttelton Band! And more, so much more. Look for individual track links later. Superfan Austin Brock is a superb source of live concert videos like these.

PopMatters assembled a lovely collection of retrospective essays on all aspects of Kid A for its tenth anniversary in 2010:
  • Between the Grooves of Radiohead's 'Kid A' - Ten writers tackle each track on Radiohead's Kid A (yes, even the bonus blip at the end), and we soon discover how, truly, everything is in its right place
  • What Was It That You Tried to Say? The Degeneration of the Voice in 'Kid A' - For being one of the defining albums of its time, Kid A certainly doesn't have much to say -- or at least that's what the band wants you to think. The band's thoughts on losing one's voice in an increasingly individualistic society suddenly takes on a much greater potency.
  • Here's Looking at You, Kid: The Echoes of 'Kid A' - Most critics didn't give Kid A great marks upon its initial release. So, what has lead to such a drastic act of historical revisionism wherein we now call it the Album of the Decade? It seems that the album's influence echoes farther than we initially thought.
  • How to Sidestep Expectations Completely - Before its release, virtually every professional critic and music know-it-all knew exactly what Kid A was going to sound like, and virtually every single one of them was wrong. In order to understand where the album came from, you have to understand where Radiohead wanted to go.
  • The Art of Falling Apart: 'Kid A' and 'Amnesiac' -- Separated at Birth - They were recorded at the same time. The songs came from the same creative place. Hell, they even share a song between them ("Morning Bell"). So why does Amnesiac seem to always be dwarfed by the shadow of Kid A in comparison?
  • You're Living in a Fantasy: The Art of 'Kid A' - The "Demon Bear" logo really took its time in the spotlight for the release of Kid A, but as long-standing Radiohead artist Stanley Donwood tells it, much of Kid A's abstract visual style comes from a very real, very frightening place. Arnold Pan explores.
  • 'Kid A': The Audio File - Last year, Thomas Britt reviewed Capitol's "Special Collector" reissues of the band's latter-day albums. With a brand new introduction, Britt takes us back to how life intersected art for him during those first few listens
  • I Might Be Wrong: A Personal Journey Inspired By 'Kid A' - Artist Song-Ming Ang was inspired by Radiohead to become a musician, but after repeating cyclical routines, turned to finding inspiration in other ways, Kid A being the tipping point for numerous musical discoveries as well as personal ones. This is Song-Ming Ang's story.
  • The Spiritual Mechanisms in 'Kid A' - In this very personal interpretation of the meaning behind the album, Iulia Alexandra Nedea argues that behind the cold textures, Kid A actually tells a story about our losing our sense of spirituality in an increasingly isolated world, and what it means for all of us
  • The Best You Can Is Good Enough: Radiohead vs. The Corporate Machine - PopMatters' coverage of Kid A's 10th anniversary concludes with an exclusive excerpt from Marvin Lin's forthcoming 33 1/3 book about the album, here discussing why the band decided to abandon all conventional publicity mechanisms to promote the album, and what such gestures ultimately said about the band's mindset at the time
A bit of humo(u)r: "I think Kid A is a bit weird."
And comics: The Making of Kid A - First time listening to Kid A

And now... to the songs:

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"Something traumatic is happening in Kid A… "

[album art: volcanic mountains, under which something of primordial power stirs...]

1 | "Everything In Its Right Place" (lyrics - notes)
"What? What is that you tried to say?
   What? What was that you *tried* to say?"


The one that started it all, EIIRP was immediately striking for its clear abandonment of guitar in favor of layered electronic tones. Yorke's voice is sliced and diced throughout, endlessly scattered and reversed as the synths swell. "Sucking on a lemon" refers to his sour mood late in the soul-sucking OKC tour. Made a cameo appearance in Vanilla Sky. Don't miss the live version, where Jonny Greenwood discombobulates Yorke's vocals in real time!
2 | "Kid A" (lyrics - notes)
"Standing in the shadows at the end of my bed..."

A deceptively soothing musicbox soon devolves into the stuff of nightmares, as a heavily processed voice warbles about shadow people and heads on sticks, and an ominous reference to the Pied Piper of Hamelin leading the children away. While the lyrics were largely drawn from a hat (literally), they evoked imagery so disturbing Yorke refused to sing it straight. As far as the song (and album) title, he suggests it's related to the first human clone, but it's never been quite clear how. Here's a charming cover on acoustic instruments.
3 | "The National Anthem" (lyrics - notes)
"Everyone has got the fear... it's holding on!"

Based on a riff Yorke wrote when he was 16, the lyrics evoke societal isolation and paranoia amidst an increasingly chaotic swarm of horns (a possible tribute to the Beatles' "A Day in the Life"). Not being classically trained, Yorke and fellow guitarist Jonny Greenwood directed the Mingus-inspired jazz band by telling them to play like a murderously angry traffic jam. Here's a nice live version done for the BBC.
4 | "How to Disappear Completely" (lyrics - notes)
"I walk through walls... I float down the Liffey...
   I'm not here... this isn't happening..."


In the stressful depths of the OKC tour, R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe shared his personal Litany Against Fear with Yorke: I am not here and this is not really happening. His words echo through this beautiful track, strings and trumpet arpeggios swelling and receding as a dissociating Yorke uses the mantra to talk himself through a deafening concert of "strobelights and blown speakers, fireworks and hurricanes." Enjoy this glorious live version from a 2001 Paris show.
5 | "Treefingers" (lyrics - notes)
Ten minutes of guitar noodling stretched and layered into a soothing wordless interlude.
6 | "Optimistic" (lyrics - notes)
"I'd really like to help you man, I'd really like to help you man...
   Nervous messed up marionette, floating around on a prison ship..."


The album's closest thing to a conventional rock song, referencing war, loneliness, and potential human extinction. "The best you can is good enough" was inspired by reassurances Yorke's partner Rachel Owen gave that they were on the right track.
7 | "In Limbo" (lyrics - notes)
"Lundy, Fastnet, Irish Sea:
   I got a message I can't read..."


Far more languid and jazzy, this piece opens with a reference to areas in the BBC's hypnotic shipping forecast, alluding to a lonely sailor adrift in the North Sea, bombarded with unintelligible messages.
8 | "Idioteque" (lyrics - notes)
"Who's in the bunker, who's in the bunker?
   I have seen to much -- you haven't seen enough!"


This thumping bass number rails passionately against greed and environmental destruction, from the false balance of "let me hear both sides" to the frightening indulgence of being allowed "everything all of the time." Notably samples Paul Lansky’s 1973 "Mild und Leise," an important early example of electronic music. The live version is a must, if only for Thom's crazy dance.
9 | "Morning Bell" (lyrics - notes)
"Howling down the chimney:
   'Release me... release me... please...'"


Often speculated to be about divorce, Yorke has actually stated it was inspired by a "haunted house" where a lightning strike erased hours of material; this track's melody was the only one he could remember. Later reprised in different form on Amnesiac.
10 | "Motion Picture Soundtrack" (lyrics - notes)
"I think you're crazy... maybe.
   I will see you... in the next life!"


Another song with old roots, this album capper uses an antique harmonium to ape the treacly melodrama of classic Disney soundtracks in a heartbreaking tale of suicide and regret ending with an angelic Mellotron choir. Used to powerful effect at the end of the film I Origins, when the protagonist reunites with his soul mate. Don't miss this luscious cover by a masterful violin quartet.

Bonus: There is a hidden track on the album, sometimes called "GenChildren" after the first tracker to leak it. Perhaps a life flashing before one's eyes?


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"...this is looking back at it, trying to piece together what has happened."

[album art: a forgotten library book, with its frayed cover bearing constellations and a crying minotaur. The award-winning collector's edition actually came with a physical book.]

1 | "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box" (lyrics - notes)
"I'm a reasonable man
   Get off my case"


This clangorous opener -- with drummer Phil Selway banging on literal kitchen pans -- was inspired by the tense traffic jams of central Paris, with the curt spelling furthering the feeling of claustrophobia.
2 | "Pyramid Song" (lyrics - notes)
"I jumped in the river, and what did I see?
   Black-eyed angels swam with me..."


This beautifully warped piano ballad, inspired by Egyptian iconography, throws you off kilter with its odd time signature -- but speed it up and you have a catchy syncopated tune. At least one fan has a brilliant theory about the title. Also features an interesting CGI music video.
3 | "Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors" (lyrics - notes)
"There are trapdoors.
   That you can't come back from."


An ominous industrial track that rambles about different kinds of doors, like a Wonderland hallway of endless passages. EMI later produced a strange music video featuring an enigmatic machine and a baby, segueing into the appropriately creepy "Like Spinning Plates" (discussed below).
4 | "You and Whose Army?" (lyrics - notes)
"Come on if you think you can take us on..."

A deliberate homage to the warm, wet sounds of The Ink Spots of the 1940s -- and a deliberate attack on the betrayal of Tony Blair's "New Labour" government in its rightward shift. A nice live take from 2001.
5 | "I Might Be Wrong" (lyrics - notes)
"I used to think there was no future left at all.
   I used to think."


A more straightforward guitar number, its lyrics reference Buddhist myths about the cycle of life as reflected in a passage from the novel Siddharta:
"They all became part of the river. It was the goal of all of them, yearning, desiring, suffering; and the river's voice was full of longing, full of smarting woe, full of insatiable desire. The river flowed on towards to its goal. Siddhartha saw the river hasten, made up of himself and his relatives and all the people he had ever seen. All the waves and water hastened, suffering, towards goals, many goals, to the waterfall, to the sea, to the current, to the ocean and all the goals were reached and each one was succeeded by another. The water changed to vapour and rose, became rain and came down again, became spring, brook and river, changed anew, flowed anew. But the yearning voice had altered. It still echoed sorrowfully, searchingly but other voices accompanied it, voices of pleasure and sorrow, good and evil voices, laughing and lamenting voices, hundreds of voices, thousands of voices..."
6 | "Knives Out" (lyrics - notes)
"Don't look down
   Shove it in your mouth"


Another more straightforward rock song -- albeit one about cannibalism. The band felt so unsure about playing it straight that they worked on it for over a year before stopping. Notably borrows a guitar line from OKC's "Paranoid Android." Also, the music video is strangely charming.
7 | "Morning Bell (Amnesiac)" (lyrics - notes)
"Round and round and round and round and round!"

The original Kid A track, resurrected into a somewhat brighter and more uplifting mode.
8 | "Dollars & Cents" (lyrics - notes)
"There are weapons we can use
   Be constructive with your blues"


An extended improvisational jam session backed by stirring strings stings. The lyrics are plaintive and often indecipherable, but are said to deal with the depredations of global capitalism, decrying the death of the environment, longing for "peace and honesty" and to walk in the "children's land" while an unnamed oppressor shouts it all down. Here's a great live take from the BBC set.
9 | "Hunting Bears" (lyrics - notes)
Another mellow instrumental -- and a good place to note the Modified Bear. These genetically modified abominations feature heavily in Kid A's blips, and serve as a sort of unofficial logo for the band amongst fans. They originally came from this dark cartoon series by longtime collaborator Stanley Donwood.
10 | "Like Spinning Plates" (lyrics - notes)
"I'm living in Cloud Cuckoo Land..."

Arguably the most experimental track, this features vocals sung backwards and reversed to produce its strangely wavering lines. Personally, I was never a huge fan of this track... until I saw Mike Masse knock this cover version out of the park.
11 | "Life in a Glasshouse" (lyrics - notes)
"Well, of course I'd like to sit around and chat...
   But someone's listening in..."


The show-stopping final number, featuring the acclaimed Humphrey Lyttelton Band jazz ensemble, takes the form of the St. James Infirmary Blues by way of a riotous New Orleans jazz funeral. It was only performed live once, buy it was a doozy. Also features an extended intro version. The track cameo'd in the 2006 sci-fi masterpiece Children of Men.
Amnesiac also boasted a number of great B-sides:


  • "Cuttooth" (lyrics - notes)
  • "I dont know why i feel so tongue tied
    I dont know why i feel so skinned alive!"


    A rollicking number about seeking identity that segues into the sound of railroad tracks in the home stretch.
  • "The Amazing Sounds of Orgy" (lyrics - notes)
  • "The amazing sound of the killing hordes
    The day the banks collapsed on us"


    This sultry cabaret piece sketches out a horrifying vision of social collapse. A rare live take from 2012.
  • "Trans-Atlantic Drawl" (lyrics - notes)
  • "Do you see light at the end of the tunnel?"

    A fast-paced track riffing on an old Gulf War quote: "We dont see any light at the end of the tunnel. There is a tunnel after the tunnel."
  • "Fast-Track" (lyrics - notes)
  • "ching-ching-ching"

    A jittery bit playing off this Donwood artwork.
  • "Kinetic" (lyrics - notes)
  • "Don't fall asleep at the wheel..."

    A soothingly swaying with ominous undertones, about being manipulated by powerful forces.
  • "Worrywort" (lyrics - notes)
  • "There's no use dwelling on, on what might have been
    Just think of all the fun you could be having"


    Arguably Radiohead's happiest song -- a bubbly chiptune number full of optimistic assurances to seize the day.
  • "Fog" (lyrics - notes)
  • "How did you go bad?"

    A cryptically sad ballad about childhood innocence lost -- or perhaps losing a child altogether.
    Final bonus, ye weary traveler: a dispatch from the darkest timeline.
    posted by Rhaomi (63 comments total) 262 users marked this as a favorite
     
    And thus concludes my accidental trilogy of British music & politics posts (cf. The Beatles and Jeremy Corbyn, Radiohead and GCHQ surveillance).
    posted by Rhaomi at 11:48 AM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


    This is a wonderful post - can't wait to spend a lot of time exploring it this weekend. I also really recommend Marvin Lin's 33 1/3 book on Kid A.
    posted by raisindebt at 11:53 AM on October 2, 2015


    The one-two punch of National Anthem>How To Disappear Completely is the high water mark for Radiohead imo.
    posted by mannequito at 11:55 AM on October 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


    John Darnielle's essay on Amnesiac totally won me over. It remains my favorite Radiohead album.
    posted by mr_roboto at 12:01 PM on October 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


    Oh, actually, the Darnielle piece I was thinking of is this song-by-song analysis, which is different from the essay linked in the main post.
    posted by mr_roboto at 12:05 PM on October 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


    Rhaomi, you've done it again with a stellar, thorough, link-tastic post. KID A and AMNESIAC are perhaps my two favorite Radiohead LPs, so this is particularly a treat.
    posted by theartandsound at 12:07 PM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Fucking great post. I'd sort of lost faith in MeFi over the past few years, but this is amazing. Thanks.
    posted by georg_cantor at 12:07 PM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


    Count me as someone who was a little dismayed that we weren't going to get any 'rock' out of Radiohead when Kid A was released. Nevertheless, over the years the Radiohead albums I go back to are the post-OK Computer ones. I could listen to I Might Be Wrong looped for a month and not get bored of it.

    Great post.
    posted by jimmythefish at 12:10 PM on October 2, 2015


    Well done. Going to the basement to check if my CD has that booklet...
    posted by chococat at 12:11 PM on October 2, 2015


    This post is amazing and really flashed me back to being 16, this CD arriving in the mail from amazon, maybe the first I bought from them, getting really high and being brought to tears by the warm sawtooth synth tones of that first track. It didn't exactly blow my mind since I was a big IDM head back then but I wish I could get that cellophane unwrapping first experience back.
    posted by dis_integration at 12:11 PM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Is there an award for post of the year?
    posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:13 PM on October 2, 2015 [10 favorites]


    If I had a time machine, somewhere on the list of the first 5 things I'd do is I'd go back to the sequencing meetings for Amnesiac and try desperately to convince Thom et al to put the long version of Life in a Glasshouse on the album instead of the short version. Because I mean seriously, that fucking horn.

    Plus he seems like the kind of guy that if a time traveler popped clumsily into the studio, he'd probably listen with an open mind.
    posted by penduluum at 12:14 PM on October 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


    greenplasticlyrics
    posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:18 PM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Fun fact: in (some) live shows "The National Anthem" includes local radio noise, so when I listen to the 2008 Santa Barbara Bowl show, it feels like a really local show.
    posted by filthy light thief at 12:23 PM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


    My first thought when I listened to Kid A was "this is cold - frighteningly, horrifically, gloriously cold." It still feels that way to me - this is the sound of being lost and alone in those cold mountains on the album cover. No help is coming. You're all right now, but night is falling.
    posted by Joey Michaels at 12:26 PM on October 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


    I was driving a group of kids in their early teens back home from a church youth retreat in 1997 when one of them told me she was into Radiohead. I remember telling her that I had a feeling that twenty years later, people would be still talking about them.

    It feels good to be right every so often.
    posted by 4ster at 12:47 PM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


    Man, that was 15 years ago already? I really need to get my life together.
    posted by Hey Dean Yeager! at 12:59 PM on October 2, 2015 [8 favorites]


    The opening notes of "Everything In Its Right Place" is the music equivalent of Gibson's opening sentence of Neuromancer.

    If there's a better opening, I'm not aware of it.
    posted by chimaera at 1:18 PM on October 2, 2015 [12 favorites]


    this is the sound of being lost and alone in those cold mountains on the album cover. No help is coming. You're all right now, but night is falling.

    I bought Kid A the day before my grandfather died. My family temporarily fell to pieces in the wake of his death, and I was away from home at university and felt utterly adrift. I listened to Kid A over and over on the long overnight coach journey to get home for the funeral, and it reinforced quite how alone in the universe I felt. It was years before I could listen to it again.
    posted by greycap at 1:22 PM on October 2, 2015 [11 favorites]


    slow clap
    posted by j_curiouser at 1:26 PM on October 2, 2015


    Heh, I clicked "more inside" and start scrolling... and scrolling, then thought to myself, "this must be a Rhaomi post."

    So thanks, some good memories bubbling up from this.
    posted by Panjandrum at 1:30 PM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Incredible post. To me, The Bends was such a fantastic album. Every cut was top-knotch, and I had no idea how they'd improve on it. In my mind, they never did. They became something else, slowly with OK Computer, more rapidly with Kid A, and then totally with Amnesiac. Something I don't get. I'm setting aside some time this weekend to spend with this post to give it another go. Everyone else on the planet can't be wrong, can they?
    posted by the christopher hundreds at 1:34 PM on October 2, 2015


    What a stellar post. Kid A and Amnesiac came out at exactly the right time to have maximum impact on me and I'll devour any thoughtful thing anyone has ever written about them.

    And god, that John Darnielle piece about Amnesiac is so, so good. His take on the title of "Pull/Pulk Revolving Doors," which I consider one of the most eerie little tumors on an album that's covered in them, gets at what makes it so subtly unsettling in a way I could never really manage myself:
    Who knows what “Pull/Pulk” was supposed to have meant at some point in the distant past, before its meaning was forever mangled beyond recognition? “Pull/Push”? But how? It cannot be “push.” We will never know. Its original impetus was destroyed by its own desperate speed to get its point across. It has effectively erased its ability to convey meaning. It commits suicide right in front of your eyes, again and again, as many times as you read it. There is blood everywhere.
    posted by valrus at 1:40 PM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


    How to replicate the keyboard sound of "Everything in its Right Place." Possibly the only helpful Yahoo Answer I've ever seen.
    posted by infinitewindow at 1:40 PM on October 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


    I'm just going to go ahead and quote Darnielle some more:
    I am fairly confused as to how it came to pass that at least one critic, hearing “Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box,” didn’t put on a ‘40s style reporter’s hat with a little “press” card sticking out of its band and immediately wire the editor: NEW RADIOHEAD ALBUM STOP THREAT TO GLOBAL EMOTIONAL WELLBEING STOP SONGS LIKE RUBIKS CUBES WITH COLORS SANDED OFF STOP PLEASE SEND RYE WHISKEY NOW STOP.
    posted by theodolite at 1:48 PM on October 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


    Impressive.
    posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 2:06 PM on October 2, 2015


    Amazing post!

    I go back and forth as to which of OKC, Kid A, or In Rainbows is my favorite. I love all three so much. After this post, maybe it's Kid A.
    posted by persona au gratin at 2:09 PM on October 2, 2015


    And I should say, I think of Amnesiac as the side B of Kid A.
    posted by persona au gratin at 2:10 PM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


    Fantastic post, thank you.

    This may spur me to try again with these albums, I have never cracked them and I don't know why. I was a massive, massive fan of the band up until OK Computer (hi to anyone that remembers hanging out on the RHMB in the late 90's) and these just left me cold. They still do, I listen to Pablo Honey much more often. I should revisit this.
    posted by deadwax at 2:32 PM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


    Kid A remains the album of the decade, whether you slot it in the 90s or the 00s.
    posted by shakespeherian at 2:52 PM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


    My theory about Radiohead and their crazy long run of being creative juggernauts is that a lot of it hinges on the involvement of Stanley Donwood, who creates the album art as the band creates the albums and there's all this audio-visual creative bleed back and forth between Donwood and the band so they can hear and also visualize the album as a whole, this big defined creative statement. I think he's every bit as important as the musicians and they all make each other better.
    posted by jason_steakums at 5:07 PM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


    Mother of god.

    Rhaomi you are officially better than any other given person.
    posted by turbid dahlia at 5:09 PM on October 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


    Holy shit, what a post.

    I began listening to Radiohead with the release of Amnesiac, and then moved on to Kid A, which quickly became the hymnal of those months between my father's death in March and the fall of the towers in September. And then the dread of the next year, and the war. Both those records are well embedded in my soul. I met Jonny Greenwood last year and shook his hand and thanked him particularly for Kid A, because it helped me get through a dark time, and he told me that that was a lovely thing to say, though it hardly seemed enough.
    posted by jokeefe at 5:23 PM on October 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


    I just glanced up a the rest of the post-- you even addressed the b-sides. My hero!
    posted by jokeefe at 5:25 PM on October 2, 2015


    I heard almost nothing of Radiohead between the single Creep -- which seemed kind of novelty-ish although probably more because of the meme it became than because of what the band was trying to do with it -- and this mic-drop performance of Idioteque on Saturday Night Live and basically had my head spun around. It'd be a lie to claim I'm now a huge fan but ever since then they've been a constant in my listening habits, to be sure.
    posted by ardgedee at 5:42 PM on October 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


    It's not really a cover, but Steve Reich's Radio Rewrite was inspired in part by "Everything in Its Right Place" from Kid A (also by "Jigsaw Falling Into Place" from In Rainbows).
    posted by Rangi at 5:45 PM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


    This is an absolutely stellar post, thank you!
    posted by sarcasticah at 5:58 PM on October 2, 2015


    Yeah Rhaomi! Thank you!
    posted by a halcyon day at 6:54 PM on October 2, 2015


    웃 i am not here and this is not really happening.
    October 2, 2015 1:45 PM

    [... MegaPost removed for brevity ...]

    And thus concludes my accidental trilogy of British music & politics posts (cf. The Beatles and Jeremy Corbyn, Radiohead and GCHQ surveillance).
    posted by Rhaomi at 1:48 PM on October 2

    Wow. This post is so big, it took Rhaomi three minutes just to scroll down to the Edit window to make the first comment.

    Interesting, his take on questions about whether he'd considered quitting Radiohead and doing things on his own. On the one hand you can empathize with the idea that bands are families and what happens inside them is a family matter; on the other, it's a bog-standard question groups of artists will be asked, because they are individuals who sometimes do work on their own. So why take the stand that the question is so heinous that you'd consider not doing interviews because of it?
    posted by Hardcore Poser at 7:46 PM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


    I loved OK Computer. Loved it loved it loved it. I was super pumped for Kid A and when I first listened I was just majorly let down. The electronic stuff just didn't seem well-done compared to other stuff in similar genres at the time, and just came off like some kind of hobby project not in the band's core competencies.

    But now I'm listening through Kid A again now after years away from it. And yeah, I think I was just full of myself back in 2000.
    posted by zsazsa at 9:24 PM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


    To echo the above, I don't think Kid A and Amnesiac would have had nearly the impact on me that they did without all the Stanley Donwood mythologising, for want of a better word, that went on around it. The albums came with what were basically big books, both the front cover and beneath what I guess might be called the "base plate" of the CD version.

    Donwood's site Slowly Downward has a lot of great stuff on it, and be sure to check the archives for further material, including a bunch of his excellent short-short stories.
    posted by turbid dahlia at 10:22 PM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


    My favourite thing Radiohead did was, apparently, read a joke comment I wrote in 2007 as a response to a rickroll (remember those?), and then 4 years later, follow my suggestions to the letter.

    Great post. I'm relistening to Kid A for the first time in many years and it's only gotten better with time.
    posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:35 AM on October 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


    So how does everyone feel about King of Limbs?
    posted by ELF Radio at 5:43 AM on October 3, 2015


    I have felt from first listen that TKOL is one of those albums that I just don't appreciate yet. Like I know there's a lot of good stuff in there but either I haven't been in the right mood while hearing it or it's one of those albums that requires some effort and attention from the listener that I just haven't put in.
    posted by jason_steakums at 5:53 AM on October 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Oh. My. God. What a post. Thank you.

    I liked Radiohead after The Bends and OKC, but then I heard Kid A and I just.... I listened to that album on my way to work every. single. day. for close to a year, and still heard something new so many times, even though I knew every bit more or less by heart. I have learned to really appreciate their older stuff, but it is at least somewhat because I can hear what I love so much about Kid A and the later albums in it. I like the older stuff a lot, but it doesn't go straight into my brain like Kid A and Amnesiac do. OKC is the transition point between early Radiohead and what they became with Kid A and later, but it's one of their albums that I pick and choose tracks from, rather than listening to it as an album, as I do with Kid A and later.

    Phenomenal post. Wow.
    posted by biscotti at 5:59 AM on October 3, 2015


    Hail to the Thief is seriously underrated.
    posted by ELF Radio at 6:54 AM on October 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


    I listen to TKOL more than any other Radiohead, recently.
    posted by shakespeherian at 9:30 AM on October 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Lotus Flower came up randomly the other day, and I was struck by how good it is. I'd love to hear it done as a 60s soul record.

    I also had the initial adaptation difficulty when Kid A came out, which really only lasted for a couple of plays. The only time I used the button on my CD player to play the album over and over - straight out of the hidden track back to Everything In Its Right Place and round again.

    It took me six months to find the booklet.
    posted by Grangousier at 9:42 AM on October 3, 2015


    Ten years ago, when I started uni, I made two great friends through our shared love of Radiohead, and Amnesiac specifically. I'd forgotten that until now. Listening to it again now for the first time in years. Yeah, it's still incredible.

    Thanks Rhaomi, for another stellar post.
    posted by Acey at 11:48 AM on October 3, 2015


    I think of Radiohead's Kid A and Bjork's Vespertine as companion albums. I discovered both in the autumn of 2001, and for me they evoke the emotional nakedness and cultural dislocation of that season.

    It's also worth noting that they are both incredible headphone albums. Those skittering beats and thrumming synths really come alive inside a good set of cans.
    posted by Mendl at 12:22 PM on October 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


    I love TKOL-- especially live, check out the In the Basement performance if you haven't already-- but my love for the balance of the album is tempered by my lack of love for Lotus Flower. I found in the video an excess of personal ego on Thom's part that struck me as... unseemly, and the Orientalism was distasteful as well. But do I love the rest of the album, and want to defend it against all comers? Yes. I like it better than In Rainbows; to me it seems the true heir of Kid A/Amnesiac, actually.
    posted by jokeefe at 12:35 PM on October 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


    Also, the damn ponytail. Haircut, Thom.
    posted by jokeefe at 12:37 PM on October 3, 2015


    I like TKOL. Not as much as some other Radiohesd albums. I listen it in the background often when I do listen to it. Like at bedtime.
    posted by persona au gratin at 2:50 PM on October 3, 2015


    Wow. I just threw away the rest of the internet. This is all I will ever need.
    posted by pwschatz at 10:11 PM on October 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


    I actually had taken Radiohead for granted, and had never listened closely to these albums before. They really are very cool! Personally, I think they could have worked fine as a double album. But I ain't gonna argue about it.

    Totally useless but vaguely related trivia: we listen to French language CBC radio at work sometimes, and I know for a fact that Radiohead has some big fans among French/Quebec pop-jazz musicians. There are one or possibly several artists that I call "French-Radiohead" that sound like almost perfect pastiches of the original, but singing in French. They're pretty fun to listen to, actually.
    posted by ovvl at 2:06 PM on October 4, 2015


    those interested who haven't already should check out this recording from Berlin on 7/4/00 - ie a couple of months prior to the release of Kid A. In addition to being a fantastic recording and a stellar performance, it's fascinating to hear the song Kid A as performed on analog instruments (including a harmonica!) - the studio version is really a digital interpretation of an arrangement that they had been performing using their customary instruments. It's great.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yu2ViE2ZYaI
    posted by fingers_of_fire at 5:43 PM on October 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


    Thanks for this great post on a timeless album. To contribute, here is a fantastic recording of Radiohead, live, in Berlin (4/7/2000). If you have time for one track, listen to this early version of Kid A.
    posted by ageispolis at 6:59 PM on October 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


    Fantastic post. Kid A got me into Radiohead and I was spoiled when they released Amnesiac a few months later. It is now over four and a half years (and counting!) since TKOLs release and I'm hurting.

    Here's hoping 2016 will bring a new album and world tour.
    posted by Diskeater at 9:19 PM on October 4, 2015


    Man I got mad goose bumps through that entire 8-bit album. Thanks for sharing.
    posted by dep at 6:58 AM on October 5, 2015


    You know how a person can't determine which earworms will be the default earworm? If music is playing all the time in your brain - which it is in my brain - you don't get to change your baseline earworm. Mine for DECADES has been a Led Zeppelin song I refuse to name right now for fear of awakening it. Radiohead more or less supplanted that baseline with most of "In Limbo" and a few bars of in the middle of "Morning Bell." You know those bars.

    It's been such a pleasure revisiting Kid A (and OK Computer) because of this post. Thank you, Rhaomi! The past few days after listening to these songs I've wanted to hear covers.
    posted by goofyfoot at 11:50 PM on October 8, 2015


    EPIC post, Rhaomi! Thank you!
    posted by LuckySeven~ at 1:42 PM on October 9, 2015


    I love Lotus Flower, but haven't been able to really get into the rest of TKOL.

    The best concert experience I have had was, hands down, Radiohead in August of 2001. Outdoors, in a big field, planes flying into Logan airport overhead, the band and the crowd all just having a really good time... it was fantastic. (I have a bootleg recording of that show. It's really amazing.)
    posted by sarcasticah at 11:47 AM on October 10, 2015


    Thanks, everyone. I've had this post in mind ever since my 2012 OKC round-up, but surprisingly still managed to leave some things out -- I just found an old notes file with some more worthwhile links to share:

    Katie Noonan and the Australian Chamber Orchestra's spellbinding take on "How to Disappear Completely"

    Tamino Gruber's idiosyncratic fan site ICYEYES includes scads of analysis and musings, including: Or if that's too straightforward for you, RadioheadUnpackt offers a labyrinthine multimedia exploration of the albums (or starting with OKC, here).

    Also, I always thought the Kid 17 idea was a little contrived, but this YouTuber does a good job with it by introducing slight adjustments into each track to make the best-sounding version.

    I also came across a few more Kid A comics from /mu/ I'd been searching for: It's a lovely day! and (sadly only in thumbnail form) first time listening to Kid A
    posted by Rhaomi at 2:10 PM on October 13, 2015


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