Relevant now more than ever
In the first two years of the 21st century, the iconic band, Radiohead, released two albums—Kid A and Amnesiac—a mere seven months apart. Not willing to release the indulgent double-feature album, the band had the two albums separated. Despite this, Kid A grew its reputation as being the greater counterpart, with Amnesiac deemed a lethargic successor of “leftovers.” At long last, Radiohead has released these two works together—one as intended, with added bonus tracks to satiate their dedicated fanbase.
In mere moments, one hears the budding push against the image in which the band crafted in the 1990s. Thom Yorke, in his vibrato, pierces against the use of a synthesizer at the end of the opening track “Everything In Its Right Place.” Autotune distorts the voice in a robotic ballad of the titular track “Kid A.” However, sitting in the rerelease lies a paradox. In pushing back against the flow of rock music, Radiohead solidified its position as one of the most influential rock bands in the modern era.
The more instrument-heavy songs such as “The National Anthem” have a pulse to them that still sounds as new and futuristic as the time it was released. In innovation, the warbling tones create a sort of soundscape that would be punctuated and refined in later works. In sitting with the album, one can feel that specific, all-encompassing push-and-pull. It chills; it hits in spaces that you wouldn’t think. Somehow, the square-shaped peg fits in the circle. Creatively, the entropy creates a musicality that is impossible to look from.
In the growing anxieties toward the digital age, Radiohead created something beautiful. The song “Life in a Glasshouse” reminds one more of a funeral than ever. In fame and starlight, Thom Yorke and the rest of Radiohead create a commentary on the voyeurism that comes with being a celebrity. Trumpets puncture this wound, creating a serenade to the death of privacy. Debilitated by the world around them, this grand album is also one of the most self-conscious.
Previously unreleased works such as “If You Say the Word” reflect the beauty of a lost classic. Its ingenuity is its perceived simplicity. Dissonance runs underneath harrowing lyrics, sitting there, recognizing the potential for something just being unearthed. It is more closely aligned to recent solo works of Thom Yorke but still has its place within this giant of an album.
However, even then, there are more traditional-sounding songs. “Follow Me Around” has an acoustic, organic sound that contrasts greatly with the technical work throughout Kid A Mnesia. The production is sparse; the production is much akin to a 1970s folk-rock ballad than the modern sound of the album. Yet, it has a place as a sort of bridge from their earlier work to the more experimental work this album catapulted. It shows the band in flex, trying to find ways to branch out from the confines they were put in, while still appreciating more classic-rock roots.
Contrast that with the punctuated, jazzy, electronic riffs of “Alt. Fast Track” or “Untitled v2” and one begins to realize just how elastic Radiohead’s talents are. The entropy of these instrumentals is so fascinatingly complex, one cannot help but admire just how textured they are. With other songs using non-synthetic instrumentation, these tracks can come across as jarring. Yet, this is exactly how the album works, trying to pull listeners into the directions of frustration the band faced at the time.
“How to Disappear Into Strings” seems to aptly tie the album, though. In ringing, in rapidly increasing tempo, there is a sense of loss but acceptance. At the turn of the 21st century, many fears have been ignited. The onslaught of technology created repercussions throughout the music world. Combining the dense, unnatural sounds of synthesizer and other technological notes with the purity of strings—it seems like a song of almosts. The listener fills in the gaps of its instrumentals. Much like the two albums, these anxieties are written on every page. Radiohead, in its purest form, gifted fans to make of its works once more with Kid A Mnesia, perhaps seeing its prevalence now more than ever.