REVIEWS OF KID A
September 24 2000
Radiohead have been describied as "Queen with self-esteem problems"; even if Thom Yorke has yet to step out in ballet slippers and a snug flesh-coloured leotard, it's an oddly appropriate comparison. As with Queen, Radiohead are a well-educated unit of seemingly endless talent and ambition, one who encapsulate this angst-ridden era as memorably as Queen took in the bombast of the '70s and self-gratification of the '80s.
Now, however, Radiohead are offering up their version of Queen 's 1982 Hot Space album - the record on which the Mercury crew delved fully into dance textures and, resultingly, alienated a good portion of their rock-head audience. Radiohead's Kid A album is a similarly uncomfortable conceit, a largely ill-advised venture that aims to produce challenging, innovatory music by approximating the records the Warp and Mo' Wax labels were releasing five years ago.
Admittedly, tonight, songs like 'Optimistic, Morning Bell and The National Anthem sound far removed from their sterile recorded incarnations although it remains inevitable that these interesting, astringent new sounds should be drowned out by the euphoric roar that greets the following Airbag and Karma Police . And rightly so; these are the songs that got Radiohead the job, the remarkable mechanisms that fired them to their sainted status. Thus, the sight of Jonny Greenwood ushering in the vertiginously thrilling opening chords of My Iron Lung is perhaps always going to prevail over Ed O'Brien gamely adding Chopsticks -style piano to the lumbering new tones of In Limbo.
As they move into Street Spirit (Fade Out) and an emphatically victorious Paranoid Android there's little chance of the mind dwelling on the way this supposedly "logo-free" event confers beer-tent monopoly status on the Anheuser-Busch corporation and their notoriously mediocre Budweiser product.
The encores are remarkable, taking in a beauteously anthemic Fake Plastic Trees, Talk Show Host and, to close, Exit Music (From A Film), stunning in its elegance and resolution. Perhaps, most encouragingly though, was the as-yet unrecorded new piece Egyptian Song. An effortlessly emotive piano ballad with Colin Greenwood on double bass, as with the Queen story, it surely heralds wonderful future events.
After Hot Space, Freddie and friends returned with the brilliantly back-to-what-we-know album The Works. This is surely the way way forward for Radiohead - immense tunes and all the band in drag for Top Of The Pops.
RADIOHEADS' DEFIANT KID A OFFERS A CHILLING MIX OF THRILLS
By Edna Gundersun
Kid A, the eagerly anticipated sequel to Radiohead's brilliant OK Computer, may not restore progressive rock to radio and chart dominance, but it does restore faith in such fading pop music virtues as individuality and insubordination.
In stores today, Kid A (***1/2 out of four) marks a defiant, even percise departure for a band widely expected to be rock 'n roll's salvation. Lacking traditional song structures of familiar anthemic grandeur, Kid A explores alienation from its own alien nation, constructing a mood maze with the intergalactic noise of synthesizers, harps, horns, a lonely piano and downsized electric guitars (except in vibrant, radio-favored Optimistic, the disc's accessible token).
Thom Yorke's voice, lovely and haunting as ever, resides deep inside the textures. His slurred diction and cryptic lyrics thread through impressionistic soundscapes reminiscent of Pink Floyd, Brian Eno, and David Bowie's Low Era.
Radiohead's space oddity reportedly relates a Matrix-like talk of a human clone in a barren future. But Kid A is less a concept album than a warped looking glass, inviting analysis and discovery based on opaque and ambiguous clues.
There's more here than first meets the ear. Intially off-putting, the 10 ambient tracks grow engaging and addictive with repeated listenings. In fact, despite its deliberate obscurity and distinct chill, Kid A evelops its victims in an opium-den haze of metaphysical Muzak, Paranoia, pain and ennui entwine in a colossal identity crisis.
Yorke feeds his misery "white wine and sleeping pills" in Motion Picture Soundtrack, envisions head on sticks in the title track and warns of a coming ice age in Idioteque, a disturbing clash of emotional anguish and machined grooves. On the spooky, How to Disappear Completely, he denies existence altogether.
The music's feathery beats, synthetic cacophony and calculated contradictions (throbbing rock rhythms that build to a train derailment of jazz horns on The National Anthem) underscore the melancholy and torment. Commotion and paralysis seem to coexist in the beautiful and weary Morning Bell, soothing instrumental Treefingers and restless Everything in Its Right Place, in which Yorke eerily moans, "Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon."
While not a logical postscript to '90's gems Pablo Honey, The Bends and OK Computer, Kid A sound come as no surprise to fans aware of Radiohead's experimental nature.
Not a trivial detour but a daring surrender to instinct, whim and arrogance, Kid A may be dismissed before it has a chance to penetrate craniums trained to gobble entertainment while idlling in neutral.
Challenging, utterly bewildering, adventurous and willfully uncommercial, Radiohead's new compass is not in sync with 'N Sync or anything else north of platinum these days. Kid A is nobody's clone, and that indeed may be its saving grace.
The unbearable heaviness of being Radiohead continues. Following the equivalent birth pains of a medium-sized galaxy,
Kid A arrives amidst the most fantastic stories of artistic constipation: abortive recording sessions, writer's block, band members wondering just what the hell it was they were meant to be doing, Doomsday scenarios around every corner. Seemingly overwhelmed by the exorbitant praise heaped upon
OK Computer, Radiohead elected to get in touch with their avant-garde side, that time (dis)honoured escape clause in the white liberal rock star's lexicon of How To Deal With Success. But although they might disavow the process, Radiohead have been complicit in their own deification through sheer aptitude. Now, predictably, in attempting to reinvent themselves as a more elusive entity, they've made a record that by its mere existence will only heighten the intrigue and intensify their global cult.
At least the rash of anaemic surrogates hurried along to quench the market's demand for overwrought introspection during the post-OK Computer hiatus are rendered in deservedly unforgiving perspective from the outset. 'Everything In Its Right Place' is a pointed opener - one fondly imagines Thom Yorke practising his most disdainful Mark E Smith sneer and muttering, "Notebooks out, plagiarists". A beautiful triumph of understatement, it bubbles forth upon tactile swathes of electric piano and Yorke's cut-up wordless vocals. When he does emerge from the deconstructivist frenzy, it's to scatter a bunch of gnomic phrases: "Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon".
The trend intensifies with the title track, where Yorke is robotically distorted beyond recognition. With contrapuntal tinkling keyboards and suffocated beats, 'Kid A' the song, is the album's most self-consciously 'weird' moment, sub-Aphex Twin doodling that's pleasant enough but significant only because we know (and they know we know) it's been made by a multi-million unit-shifting rock band. Likewise, the larksome 'The National Anthem', where a seething bass groove descends into skronk nirvana featuring trombone and saxophone, Yorke again keening non-specifically on matters millennial ("Everyone has got the fear").
Were the entire record comprised of such wilful obfuscation, then the perpetrators could be rightly accused of copping out completely, but it seems Radiohead's instincts for the passionate grand gesture are too strongly ingrained. 'How To Disappear Completely' heralds a return to the big ballad template, as massed strings swoon and Yorke's voice soars transcendentally for the first time, while 'Optimistic' is the cue to give a plausible impression of a live rock band. Y'know, like featuring drums, guitars - this group used to employ three of those, you may recall - and a fully plugged-in singer declaiming apocalyptically about big fish eating little ones. It's great, but lest anyone forget where much of Radiohead's mid-'90s renaissance stemmed from, it sounds a lot like REM, specifically 'Monster'-period REM rewriting 'Country Feedback'. And this after a mid-album ambient instrumental, another device fondly employed by the esteemed Athenians.
Thus far, Kid A has provided stuff old, new, borrowed and, as ever, blacker than blue. Without consistently engaging the heart, this has been a cool experience. But hereafter, and one superlative song aside, it rather loses its nerve. Of the remaining four tracks, 'In Limbo' meanders nowhere particularly interesting, proving it takes more than a tricky time signature to sustain a non-song. The edgy 'Morning Bell' is much better, promising to rend the heavens with immolatory guitar, but reining back just as it's really pushing out. And 'Motion Picture Soundtrack' is a sorely anticlimactic closer, the kitchen sink arrangement singularly failing to disguise the lack of anything substantial underneath.
It's the one track that stands furthest from one's expectations of how Radiohead sound that represents the album's saving grace. Naff in title and quite gauche in its stab at garage-noir, 'Idioteque' is a nonetheless brilliantly persuasive two-step litany of paranoia, fear and unease. Yorke sings it like he means it - "Women and children first/I laugh until my head comes off/I've seen too much/You haven't seen enough/This is really happening/Take the money and run" - and suddenly Radiohead's amorphous external agenda assumes some kind of shape.
And here's the rub: for better or worse, Radiohead have always been about something, be it the loathing of self or the human condition in general, and the ramifications thereof. Yet it seems in a desire to quash the rampant air of significance suffusing their every movement and utterance, they've rather sold short the essence of their art. Yorke's presence is opaque - what better way for a reluctant generational spokesman to abdicate responsibility than by saying nothing much at all? Anyone who's seen the band live this year or pillaged the Internet realises there's songs recorded during the Kid A sessions that are at least the equal of anything here. Now while these will presumably appear in some form in due course, their inclusion on this album would have made it an inestimably stronger work, broader in scope and more potent in impact. Who knows, maybe more fun to listen to.
But heaven forbid, that might mean even more outlandish plaudits for the poor lambs to contend with. For all its feats of brinkmanship, the patently magnificent construct called Kid A betrays a band playing one-handed just to prove they can, scared to commit itself emotionally. And isn't that what this is supposedly all about? 7/10
ROCK BAND SEEKS PATIENT LISTENERS
The Associated Press
Oct 2 2000 12:06PM ET
NEW YORK (AP) - For nearly an hour recently, the video channel MTV2 aired a film of something many viewers had probably never seen: a record album spinning on a turntable, the needle inching toward the center.
To accompany the visual, MTV2 played Kid A, a new album by the rock band Radiohead that arrives in stores Tuesday. Not just one song, but 10 of them. The whole album.
About a dozen radio stations are also playing the album from start to finish.
The approach, a quaint throwback to the days of giant headphones and shag carpets, is a sign of respect for Radiohead and, perhaps, of a backlash in the music industry against short attention spans and the dominance of hit singles.
Radiohead is encouraging listeners to treat the album as a unified piece of art. They aren't releasing a single, or making a video to accompany any of its songs.
``We don't have time like we used to,'' said Chris Hufford, Radiohead's manager. ``There are certain things that are great for moving fast. But Radiohead is all about taking things slowly and getting people into it slowly.''
The British band's last album, OK Computer, was critically hailed as a rock landmark and, without the benefit of a hit single, sold 1.7 million copies. This week's release of the follow-up has been eagerly awaited.
Led by the eerily beautiful voice of Thom Yorke and vaguely reminiscent of Pink Floyd, Radiohead's music can sound strange yet rewards repeated listening. Rolling Stone magazine describes Kid A as a ``space-rock opera.''
Musicians still make albums, of course, even concept albums. Yet with so many entertainment options competing for attention, if there's no hit single being played on the radio, albums frequently go unheard.
Long popular in Europe, compilation discs that string together hit singles of various artists have recently started selling well in the United States.
CD players also give listeners the chance to skip over songs they don't like at the press of a remote control button, or to program out the unfamiliar altogether. With records, such a chore required getting up, going over to the turntable, and moving the needle.
Kid A isn't a concept album. But it was programmed to flow smoothly, and tracks with more commercial potential were left off it they didn't fit the sound, Hufford said.
``They're not trying to lead any new sort of political front to make albums more popular,'' he said. ``They enjoy albums. They enjoy the piece of work. The concept where you sell an album on the back of one or two singles and the rest is just padding is complete anethema to them.''
Capitol Records, counting on the album to be a big seller during the holidays, organized listening parties to give fans a sneak preview. The company is making sure listening posts are set up in many stores so fans can sample before they buy, said Rob Gordon, the company's vice president of marketing.
MTV2 had never played an entire album before, but agreed when Radiohead's representatives approached station executives.
``This was a band whose past track record shows they are very important and like to take risks,'' said David Cohn, general manager of MTV2. ``We listened to this new record and felt it was happening again.''
Perhaps this example will give other artists the incentive to take risks, Cohn said.
``It is unique and refreshing in this day and age that a band is looking at the whole album,'' he said. ``Many artists probably think they are and probably are writing an album as a whole. But they don't market it that way.''
On the title track, Thom Yorke might as well be delivering a monologue into a black hole. His vocals are creepily distorted, like an alien distress call. On 'Treefingers,' any evidence of human imprint is scrupulously shrouded in a sci-fi-inspired aural atmosphere. But for all their automated tinkering, Radiohead are indeed a band of flesh and blood. While this challenging record is full of sterile soundscapes and surreptitious intonations, it's also brimming with messy emotions- though it's questionable whether Ok Computer -heads will commit to the multi-listens required to find them. B-LM
* * * *
The first track on Radiohead's fourth album is called 'Everything in Its Right Place.' Actually, nothing in the song sounds like it is in its proper place. An electric piano marches in arrhyhmic circles, crisscrossed by the wheeze of an asthmatic synthesizer and intrusive burst of machine babble. The watery croon of singer Thom Yorke seeps in and out of earshot like whale song. And the words, such as they are, just hand in the air like comic-strip thought balloons: "Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon....There are two colors in my head....What is that she'd tried to say?"
That is pop? Radiohead are a rock band: guitarist Jonny Greenwood and Ed O'Brien, bassist Colin Greenwood, drummer Phil Selway and Yorke on voice and lyrics. The British group's first three albums- Pablo Honey (1993), The Bends (1995), and OK Computer (1997)- are all classic-rock thrillers, sparkling adventures in the radical-populist traditions of the Beatles in the late 1960's; the early , galactic Pink Floyd; and R.E.M. (pick any era). But Kid A is all blur. It is a kind of virtual rock in which the roots have been cut away, and the formal language- hook, riff, bridge-has been warped, liquefied and, in some songs, thrown out althogether. If you're looking for instant joy and easy definition, you are swimming in the wrong soup.
Power chords are sparse; linear grooves even scarcer. Keyboards are programmed to mimic human speech; Yorke's voice, in turn is squashed into a Kraftwerk-ian bleat in the title song. The crusty funk of 'The National Anthem' ends with what sounds like a New Orleans brass band walking into a brick wall. 'In Limbo' is just that, a repetitive cascade of gorgeous guitar and pert electric piano. 'How to Disappear Completely' moves like an ice floe: cold-blue, folk rock with just a faint hint of heartbeat.
Radiohead always makes you dig for the humanity in their music. Their best and biggest singles- 'Creep,' 'Fake Plastic Trees','Lucky'- have all been deceptive bundles of wounded flesh, exquisitely camouflaged in taut, arch distemper. Kid A is even harder to decode.When Yorke sings here, it's as if his voice is going the wrong way- not out from his mouth but back into his head, where the notes and words reverberate agains his skull, blunting pronunciation and meaning. According to a transcript on one Radiohead Web site, Yorke is singing "What's going on?" over and over in 'The National Anthem.' On the record, it sounds more like Yorke is moaning "So alone, so alone." It oculd be neither; it could be both. Yorke isn't telling; Kid A comes without printed lyrics.
But the whole point of Kid A is that there are no sure things, in pop or anything else- and that our best intetions and finely tuned plans are often just fuck-ups waiting to happen. In a recent Web chat, Yorke claimed that the album title refers to "the first human clone- I bet it has already happened." For all of its apparent inscrutability, Kid A is, in fact, a clear-eyed space opera about a plausible future-a generation raised like plant life. And inside the hermetic electronics and art-pop frost is a heated argument about conformity, individuality and the messy consequences of playing God.
You can definitely hear something, or someone, kicking its way into consciousness.
RADIOHEAD CHALLENGES WITH KID A
Tony Resnick/ The BG news (my local college paper)
To say that Kid A is like every Radiohead album would be appropriate in that it continues with their experimental music ventures, however that doesn't mean it sounds the same.
The album is an artistic piece, which means that it's not likely to be commercially successful. According to guitarist Ed O'Brien's online diary at Radiohead's Web site, the band was trying to get away from the common, "done to death," guitar rock band sound and move on to something new.
And that is exactly what thye have done, but to say that it is cutting edge in modern music would be a great misconception. The overall sound couild be described as a cross between 1997's Ok Computer, Aphex Twin and the recent Primal Scream release.
About the only solid carry over from the bands previos albums would be Thom Yorke's pensive voice and anemic lyrics. Mesh them with lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood's musical engineering and you have the exceptionally celebrated sound that has been the band's trump card in the excessively homely modern rock medium.
Greenwood has definitely set a new tone for the band with this album. With heavy sampling, symphonic backgrounds and electronic beats, Kid A is an uneasy but still solid step for the band.
There are great tracks and not so great tracks that need a few listens to ease into. The first track, 'Everything is in It's Right Place,' sounds like Yorke's voice sampled over and old NES game. I don't think anyone could necessarily take on Mike Tyson's Punch-Out listening to the song, but it is aesthetically entertaining. Parts of it sounds like the second level of Konami's Contra.
The song 'National Anthem' is an interesting journey with hour sampls and synthesized fuzz. 'Idioteque,' a haunting song with a slight dance beat, is one of the more commercial sounding songs on the disc. According to O'Brien's online diary, 'In Limbo' Yorke was particularly fond of because the lryics were recorded with a cassette player while driving around Paris in his car.
There sound be more from the band this spring with the release of a B-side EP of cuts from the album. They are also tentatively planning to release a fifth album in September of 2001. GRADE: B-
RADIOHEAD'S A-OK WITH KID
Nov 9 2000 3:38PM
DETROIT (Reuters) - With its 1997 album, OK
Computer, the British band Radiohead made one of the most acclaimed records of that year and vaulted from cult status to the top of the international pop heap.
They've done it again with the new Kid A, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts. But rather than following the conventional path of emulating its prior success, Radiohead has achieved even greater notoriety with an album that sounds nothing like its predecessor, and for which the group plans to release no singles or videos and has promoted with just a handful of concerts.
"Our goal was really not to do what we''ve done before; it''s really as simple as that," explains guitarist Ed O''Brien, one of the five musicians who formed Radiohead in 1991 in Oxfordshire, England.
"It just felt like we didn''t have a choice; this is the record we had to make. There wasn''t mass amounts of thinking behind it. It was just, ''We''re not gonna go over old ground."''
It's hard to overstate just how gutsy a move Kid A is for Radiohead, and how much was at stake prior to the album''s release.
It's not like the success of OK Computer came out of nowhere. Radiohead's debut album, 1993''s Pablo Honey, launched the hit single 'Creep,' while 1995''s The Bends was bolstered by the group''s stint touring as R.E.M.''s opening act.
But OK Computer raised Radiohead's profile exponentially. It won a slew of international awards, including a Grammy, and scored high on virtually every year-end critics poll. Songs such as 'Paranoid Android' and 'Karma Police' also received substantial radio play.
But as the subsequent Radiohead documentary Meeting People is Easy revealed, the five musicians -- O''Brien, singer Thom Yorke, guitarist Jonny Greenwood, bassist Colin Greenwood and drummer Phil Selway -- did not warm to celebrity. Instead, they openly feared it could cause creative stagnation.
O'Brien says it was something of a relief the group was bold enough to embrace change, but at the same time it made following OK Computer that much more difficult.
"I'm not surprised some people have found listening to (Kid A) quite difficult; we did as well. It took us awhile to get our heads into that space, and we''re the people making the record.
"But it''s always like that -- it was like that on The Bends and it was like that on OK Computer. So it never really changes in that respect. If you''re gonna do something new, it''s going to be difficult. It should be difficult, because the notion of doing something new implies that, really."
Kid A may have been more challenging than Radiohead expected, however. The group and co-producer Nigel Godrich started working on Kid A in late 1998 but went
through three studios and 10 months of work before seizing on something that put the album on track. It was a difficult time, and there were rumors of substantial inner-band strife and even a potential breakup.
In hindsight, however, O''Brien dismisses some of that as overstatement.
"I don''t know whether it''s splitting up, but it''s like readdressing the balance or readdressing things," the guitarist says. "It''s like any relationship; you have to do it once in awhile, and that involves a day or two of some hard talking. ... It''s no different with a band."
The turning point, O''Brien says, came during the summer of 1999, when Yorke and Godrich retreated to a separate studio and came up with 'Everything in Its Right Place,' a delicate, piano-dominated piece that wound up opening the album.
"That was the first one where, OK, it was significantly different from what we''ve done before, but it was a great piece of music," O''Brien recalls.
The song offered the band a new direction for creating a successful album. No longer would every member necessarily play on every song, and some of the tunes would do without some of Radiohead''s sonic trademarks -- particularly O''Brien and Jonny Greenwood''s guitars.
In fact, Greenwood spent more time playing the Ondes Martenot, a pre-digital keyboard synthesizer.
"I think it was a really liberating thing," O''Brien says of the change in approach. "You know the nature of bands; you want to put your thing in. But sometimes on this record you just didn''t."
Even more exciting, he adds, is the group's plans to put out another new recording in 2001, perhaps as early as April.
O'Brien acknowledges the band recorded enough material for two albums, but he downplays reports that the next effort will be closer to what is considered Radiohead''s traditional sound.
"I think there are definitely elements of what we''ve done in the past," he says. "There''s perhaps four or five more songs that are more straight-ahead, for sure. But I don''t think it''s more traditional; I don''t think they necessarily have the obvious verse-chorus routine, although some of them have that.
"But we''ve charted a course of change on (Kid A), and I really don''t see us doing anything we might consider to be retracing our steps in any way."
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(Gary Graff is a nationally syndicated journalist who covers the music scene from Detroit. He also is the supervising editor of the award-winning "MusicHound" album guide series.)
A Goes to the Head of the Class
Radiohead's arty, experimental album knocks Mystikal off the top of the chart
Kids are all right.
Judged strictly by the numbers (207,393), Radiohead's
Kid A may
be one of the softest No. 1 debuts in a while, but considering what this weird,
non-commercial album was up against, its chart-topping entry this week is still
pretty impressive. Weeks -- no, months
-- of industry and critical hype helped the uncompromising Oxford, England
art-rockers overcome stiff competition from a trio of formidable rappers -- last
week's title holder Mystikal, Nelly and former Geto
Boys member Scarface whose Last
of a Dying Breed debuted at No. 7 with sales of 133,972 copies
according to SoundScan. Punk veterans Green Day also
held their own with their full-out pop album, Warning,
which entered the chart at No. 4 with sales of 155,520.
boomer record buyers didn't exactly flock to stores to welcome back prodigal poet
Paul Simon.You're the One, Simon's first true solo
album since 1990's Rhythm
of the Saints (not counting the 1997 Songs
From the Capeman project), moved 55,384 copies its first week in
stores for a No. 19 debut. At the very least, Simon can celebrate the fact that
he finished one spot ahead of Yanni's
If I Could Tell You.
notable debuts include Guru's third Jazzmatazz
(No. 32), country boy Travis Tritt's Down the Road I Go (No. 51), Robbie
When You're Winning (No. 110), DJ Paul
Presents Another World (No. 114) and the Indigo
week, look for Jakob Dylan and the Wallflowers to sleepwalk
their way into the Top Ten, though a lack of top-notch debuts could end up creating
another relatively slow sales week across the board. Consider it the quiet
before the storm, however, as Oct. 17 sees the release of a new Limp Bizkit
album, with new albums from of U2, the Backstreet Boys and Marilyn Manson coming
in quick succession.
week's Top Ten: Radiohead's Kid
A (207,393 copies); Mystikal's Let's
Get Ready (187,706); Nelly's Country
Grammar (161,083); Green Day's Warning
(155,520); 98 Degrees' Revelation
(149,525); Madonna's Music
(141,211); Scarface's Last
of a Dying Breed (133,972); Creed's Human
Clay (126,137); Baha Men's Who
Let the Dogs Out (102,677) and 3 Doors Down's Better Life (97,903).
(October 11, 2000)
For first U.S. show in two years, Radiohead rock out
Radiohead did the damn near impossible Wednesday at New York's Roseland
Ballroom, their first live U.S. performance in over two years: they transformed
the challenging, impenetrable Kid
A into rock songs. "Songs" is a relative term when you're
dealing with this band, of course, as there's not much on Kid A resembling traditional song-stuff
(hooks, choruses, riffs, bridges). But for all the talk about Radiohead saving
rock (from itself?), or Kid
A being post-rock, or even anti-rock, Radiohead did what only
Radiohead could do, and simultaneously destroyed and redeemed the genre.
it's a contradiction. But to make the transition clear between The
Bends and OK Computer to Kid
A, Radiohead had to find some middle ground. Which meant making Kid
A songs more like OK
Computer, and OK Computer songs more like Kid
A, save for the dynamics. Which makes sense, in a way, because the
disoriented despair that drips off both tastes pretty much the same. Radiohead
songs (and their nonlinear ambient mood pieces that masquerade as songs) are on
the edge of madness, fierce and fragile, intense and gentle, sweeping and
subtle, all at once. It was the blurred lines between old and new, between
brilliance and psychosis, that were most apparent during tonight's nearly
two-hour set, which featured no less than eight selections from Kid
the aid of an seven-piece brass section, Radiohead burst into the free jazz
freakout of "The National Anthem," which,
though monochordal as it could have been, came alive via a dizzying array of
found sound on guitarist Jonny Greenwood's transistor radio and frontman Thom
Yorke's growls and snarls. As the band continued to grind away, Yorke twitched
and convulsed, as if he were about to seizure. Seeming to feel the songs on a
completely different level, his spasms would increase as Radiohead moved into
their more chaotic and dynamic numbers, from "Talk
Show Host" to "Paranoid Android,"
but would suddenly cease when the band mellowed out with softer fare. See-sawing
back and forth between subdued, sophisticated melodies and aggressive, bombastic
noise, Radiohead took on multiple personalities eagerly, with Yorke introducing
most numbers quietly and simply ("This is a rock song," he mumbled
before "The Bends"). Though the somewhat
formless "In Limbo" is one of the few
songs from Kid A to feature electric guitar riffs,
that didn't prevent a little re-arrangement to allow for more guitar on the
vocals practically bled out from his throat, sometimes seeming ripped out of
sheer pain, other times flowing with no regard to meaning in a literal sense.
Words were chosen phonetically, for the pure sound of them, as if that in a way
meant more than any dictionary definition could dictate. Wailing through "Optimistic"
(which is anything but), soaring through the unreleased "Dollars
and Cents," Yorke at points could have carried the whole show on his
voice, which, for some songs, he sang along to in a neat effect, as his
distorted vocals were sampled and broken into backwards shards. Yorke lightened
his plaintive wail in "How to Disappear Completely,"
allowing the song to drift along with his strummed acoustic guitar, letting
notes just hang gently and fade away. Even in the beat-driven "Idioteque,"
Yorke's melody-melting vocal was gorgeous, vaulting into falsettos at the top of
his register -- the beat wasn't even necessary.
Radiohead set out to prove with Kid
A -- that rock is art, that rock is dead, that rock is very much
alive, that rock has evolved into a new, nameless form that we may not yet
recognize -- it was done and undone. As it should be.
(October 13, 2000)