Monday, November 1, 2010

Top 25 Albums #22. Kid A - Radiohead

Radiohead may just be the greatest rock band of our time. 1997's OK Computer just about confirmed that. But wait... does that make Kid A rock music? It certainly sounds little like Chuck Berry or Led Zeppelin's call-and-response riffing. Here, in Kid A's cold and frightening post-Y2K world, the guitar is replaced with the Ondes Martenot, the drum kit with the drum machine, the string with the synth, the vocal with the vocoder. There are admittedly some similarities to 70's art rock and Brian Eno, and it's not like a rock band has never "gone electric" before or otherwise reinvented themselves. Rarely, however, have the fruits of experimentation been so rich as on Kid A, the weirdest Billboard #1 album of all time. Intended partly as a reflection of the music Radiohead had been listening to at the time, Kid A amalgamates an eclectic variety of influences, from jazz to electronica, and its success spurred many listeners to seek out underground music much in the same way Nevermind did a decade earlier. Simply put, this album is a masterpiece and possibly the decade's greatest achievement in popular music. "Everything In Its Right Place" starts the affair on a chilling note, with Thom Yorke's severely chopped-up voice spewing non-sequiturs like "Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon" over soulless keyboards. Next comes the title track, my favorite on the album, which begins with a UFO landing and ends with a newborn baby's cry. This creepy sci-fi enigma segues into "The National Anthem," a barrage of twisted jazz and funk. "How To Disappear Completely"'s acoustic guitar strumming might have offered respite were it not for the eerie string section that hangs uncomfortably above. After an exhausting sonic nightmare of millennial dread, the album closes with a beautiful explosion of harps, followed by silence and then the final strains of electronic abstraction. Some find Kid A to be impenetrable, but I would venture that it's the band's most accessible album, simply because it's their best. This is some of the most immersive (and impressive) music ever made.

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