2000 release, the fourth album from the groundbreaking British Alt-Rock group. A commercial success worldwide, Kid A went platinum in its first week of release in the UK. Despite the lack of an official single or music video as publicity, Kid A became the first Radiohead release to debut at #1 in the United States. This success was credited variously to a unique marketing campaign, the early Internet leak of the album, and anticipation after the band’s 1997 album, OK Computer.
With every record, Radiohead jump off higher and higher cliffs, daring fans to take the plunge in their artistic feats of derring-do. The journey from that scratchy bit of raw guitar angst in “Creep” (from 1993’s Pablo Honey) to any song on Kid A amounts to a high-wire act that few, if any, bands in popular music have ever attempted. It’s hard to believe both records come from the same planet, much less the same band. Likewise, the grandiose, Pink Floyd-esque thematic scope of 1997’s extraordinary OK Computer is nowhere to be found here. Quiet, contemplative, and less confrontational, it opens with a lack of bombast, as “Everything in Its Right Place” builds tension with ghostly voiceovers, a dry pulse, and a shadowy organ motif. That tension appears over and over on Kid A. On “How to Disappear Completely,” the unsettled, atonal keyboard waxing in the background offsets the plaintive Thom Yorke vocal, and on “Idioteque,” detached, inorganic rhythms make the melody’s despondent aimlessness that much more nerve-racking. Throughout, Radiohead fearlessly explore dissonance and structure, melding twisted, Brian Eno-meets-Aphex Twin sonic landscapes with utter discontent in the world around them. They may sometimes overreach, letting artsy ambition prevent them from giving us the arena rock-god goodies. But their commitment to restless creativity also yields pleasures that don’t fade but instead become more resonant upon repeated listenings. If OK Computer was rock’s most relevant expression of millennial angst, Kid A is the opposite; it’s the 21st century’s first record that sounds like the future, barely caring what that Y2K fuss was all about and much more worried about what the hell we’re all supposed to do now. –Matthew Cooke