Kid A, Radiohead
Capital, October 2, 2000
Track Listing: 1. Everything in Its Right Place, 2. Kid A, 3. The National Anthem, 4. How to Disappear Completely, 5. Treefingers, 6. Optimistic, 7. In Limbo, 8. Idioteque, 9. Morning Bell, 10. Motion Picture Soundtrack
Part I: Suits
Dorothy is wearing a suit and sitting behind a big bad desk at some anonymous record company when she opens the package. It contains a few demos from a highly anticipated album by Band X. As she listens, her agitation builds and before long she is dizzy with disgust, drowning in disappointment and her own ignorance.
How exciting it is when artists abandon safety nets—whatever it was that made them successful—in order to succumb entirely to the whim of creativity. After all, who is the artist to stand in the way of divine intervention in any way in order edit it to fit certain expectations (even their own)? True artists are in many ways mediums, tasked with channeling and then transposing inspiration. It is a process that is best handled delicately, with kid gloves.
Neil Young was once sued by his own record company for making music that wasn’t “representative” of Neil Young. What a mind-boggling charge. Thankfully, there are other examples of artists departing comfort zones in favor of taking blind leaps of faith into brave new worlds as well. One such departure was Radiohead’s journey into a funky new universe of rhythmically-charged electronica and supersonic beats.
The first time I heard Kid A, I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but that rush of not knowing where it was coming from was wildly exciting. Thom Yorke seemed to be chanting like a shaman, off on a flight of the soul. As for the rest of the band, I couldn’t figure out what instruments were making the tripped out sounds. But in the surrounding confusion, at least to me, everything seemed very much in its right place. An extraordinary Saturday Night Live appearance reaffirmed my excitement. This new sound was thrilling! All you had to do was throw away pre-conceived expectations and follow along the happy trail, straight to its poppy field bliss. Surrender Dorothy!
Note: For Part II, see In Rainbows.