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All Things Reconsidered: The 10th Anniversary of Radiohead's 'Kid A'

To celebrate the album’s 10th anniversary for the next two weeks, PopMatters has collected writings from all across the spectrum, covering the album from every angle and concluding with an exclusive excerpt from Marvin Lin’s forthcoming 33 1/3 book about the iconic disc.

Edited by Evan Sawdey

Apparently, Kid A isn’t just an album.

Shortly after I pitched the idea of a massive retrospective on the 10th anniversary of Kid A‘s release, the pitches and stories came flooding in from every angle. As I poured through them, though, I realized that I was getting more than just analysis and commentary. People were inserting themselves into their pieces, talking not only about the album, but their own relation to the album. I’ve read stories about what Kid A means to someone on a personal level, or even where they were when they first heard it. Apparently, Kid A stopped becoming a mere disc a long time ago, instead becoming a grand piece of art that worked its way into our lives. If I asked you, the reader, to remember when you first heard the album, there’s a good chance that you could tell me quite vividly where you were, what was going on, and how that album shattered any preconceived notions you had of what a pop album could be.

Ten years ago, I honestly didn’t know who Radiohead was. I was just starting to come out of my sheltered musical shell and began to discover more “real” music, but in picking up stray albums by artists I merely caught whispers of in music rags—Bob Dylan and Beck, Beth Orton and Badly Drawn Boy (apparently I had a thing for artists with B’s in their name)—I kept hearing about Radiohead here and there. Something about a new album. Apparently their last one was really good. That was about all that I knew at the time.

Yet what I remember distinctly about the summer of 2000 was that everyone, everywhere was talking about this disc with a passion. In every magazine, on every music site I visited, in conversation with every employee in a store that sold CDs (which were in fashion at the time), I kept hearing about Kid A one way or another. The band didn’t put out music videos to promote the release, but that didn’t stop call-in music video network The Box from using a clip of the band playing “Optimistic” live to help drive the hype up even further. I heard about the (very) select amount of shows that the group was doing prior to the album’s October 2nd release, how people were trying to decipher what these online “blips” were and what they meant, and if it would sound anything like OK Computer, which Q Magazine‘s 1998 Readers Poll had already designated as the greatest album of all-time ... ever.

I couldn’t stand it anymore: I simply had to hear the disc that was causing all of this commotion—and just as its first spin in my car CD player finished, I realized that Kid A just boldly challenged everything I knew about music at the time. What I found out later was that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.

Here’s a rock band not making rock songs. Here’s a group who previously wrote about alienation in our modern world now making efforts to deliberately alienate us. They culled influences from all over the place—from IDM and the Warp Records catalog, from Miles Davis and other avant-garde jazz giants—yet synthesized them in such a way that never once did you ever question that the song you were listening to was written by anyone but Radiohead. Some people scoffed at the whole business, calling it pretentious and cold. For just about everyone else though, the most important rock band in the world had just publicly reinvented themselves in as drastic a way as possible—and came out the other side as heroes. Right as the teen-pop boom of the late 90s was wearing out its welcome, Radiohead was proving that not only was rock music alive and well, but it was as daring as ever.

To celebrate the album’s 10th anniversary, PopMatters has collected writings from all across the spectrum, covering the album from every angle and concluding with an exclusive excerpt from Marvin Lin’s forthcoming 33 1/3 book about the iconic disc.

We all seemed to remember where we were when we heard this album for the very first time. So it is at this point, dear reader, that we must ask a similar question: where, in fact, were you?

—Evan Sawdey

Thursday, November 4 2010

The Best You Can Is Good Enough: Radiohead vs. The Corporate Machine

PopMatters' coverage of Kid A's 10th anniversary concludes with an exclusive excerpt from Marvin Lin's forthcoming 33 1/3 book about the album, here discussing why the band decided to abandon all conventional publicity mechanisms to promote the album, and what such gestures ultimately said about the band's mindset at the time ...

Wednesday, November 3 2010

The Spiritual Mechanisms in ‘Kid A’

In this very personal interpretation of the meaning behind the album, Iulia Alexandra Nedea argues that behind the cold textures, Kid A actually tells a story about our losing our sense of spirituality in an increasingly isolated world, and what it means for all of us ...

Tuesday, November 2 2010

I Might Be Wrong: A Personal Journey Inspired By ‘Kid A’

Artist Song-Ming Ang was inspired by Radiohead to become a musician, but after repeating cyclical routines, turned to finding inspiration in other ways, Kid A being the tipping point for numerous musical discoveries as well as personal ones. This is Song-Ming Ang's story.

Monday, November 1 2010

‘Kid A’: The Audio File

Last year, Thomas Britt reviewed Capitol's "Special Collector" reissues of the band's latter-day albums. With a brand new introduction, Britt takes us back to how life intersected art for him during those first few listens ...

Sunday, October 31 2010

You’re Living in a Fantasy: The Art of ‘Kid A’

The "Demon Bear" logo really took its time in the spotlight for the release of Kid A, but as long-standing Radiohead artist Stanley Donwood tells it, much of Kid A's abstract visual style comes from a very real, very frightening place. Arnold Pan explores.

Thursday, October 28 2010

The Art of Falling Apart: ‘Kid A’ and ‘Amnesiac’—Separated at Birth

They were recorded at the same time. The songs came from the same creative place. Hell, they even share a song between them ("Morning Bell"). So why does Amnesiac seem to always be dwarfed by the shadow of Kid A in comparison?

Wednesday, October 27 2010

How to Sidestep Expectations Completely

Before its release, virtually every professional critic and music know-it-all knew exactly what Kid A was going to sound like, and virtually every single one of them was wrong. In order to understand where the album came from, you have to understand where Radiohead wanted to go.

Here’s Looking at You, Kid: The Echoes of ‘Kid A’

Most critics didn't give Kid A great marks upon its initial release. So, what has lead to such a drastic act of historical revisionism wherein we now call it the Album of the Decade? It seems that the album's influence echoes farther than we initially thought.

Monday, October 25 2010

What Was It That You Tried to Say? The Degeneration of the Voice in ‘Kid A’

For being one of the defining albums of its time, Kid A certainly doesn't have much to say -- or at least that's what the band wants you to think. The band's thoughts on losing one's voice in an increasingly individualistic society suddenly takes on a much greater potency.

Sunday, October 24 2010

Between the Grooves of Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’

Ten writers tackle each track on Radiohead's Kid A (yes, even the bonus blip at the end), and we soon discover how, truly, everything is in its right place ...

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