Friday, November 10, 2006

All time top ten - #7 - Kid A

The opening bars of 'Everything in its Right Place' are a defining moment in modern music. The descending keyboard riff, interspersed with cut-and paste, nonsensical vocal mutterings from Thom Yorke was automatically dismissed as 'too hard' by many. But with this glaring statement of intent, Radiohead dispensed with conventional song-writing rules and notions of structure. Gone were the Johnny Greenwood screaming, tortured guitars, gone were much of the drums, replaced by skittering beats and drum machines. There was very little recognisable guitar at all. There were no choruses! Released in early 2000, if ever an album could have ushered in the 21st century, it was this.
Taking its cues from everywhere, and possibly nowhere at all, Kid A redefined what it meant to make a rock record. Vocals are twisted, sliced and distorted within an inch of their lives, such as on the title track, with Yorke's voice squeezed until it actually sounds like a child singing; on the driving, hypnotic 'The National Anthem' an insane, climactic, horn driven crescendo would not be out of place during the more psychadelic moments on 'Bitches Brew'; the instrumental 'Treefingers' is made entirely out of guitar samples, yet sounds nothing like any guitar anyone had ever heard and the thumping, tribal 'Optimistic' breaks down via a jazz wig-out interlude into the seasickness-inducing clamour of 'In Limbo'.
'Idioteque', a disco number for those coming down after the night out, is the most radical departure from 'Old Radiohead', while 'How to Disappear Completely' is the one track that might possibly feel at home on 1997s 'OK Computer'.
Harps merge with angelic choirs, saxophones conduct squealing, wailing duels with french horns, Yorke's tortured angel voice proclaims 'I'm not here/This isn't happening'.
Difficult it may be, but a more rewarding listen may not possibly exist for those with the patience (and the stomach). Radiohead plotted a course for the new generation of musician. Ignoring genre, convention and style, Kid A brought together every conceivable influence and made something that sounded like nothing else.
And the world is still listening.

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