PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


'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 ...

[Editor's Note: Back in August of 2009, Capitol Records continued its Radiohead reissue campaign by unleashing "Special Collector's Editions" of Kid A, Amnesiac, and Hail to the Thief onto the world. Thomas Britt wrote a very extensive and critical analysis of all three releases, which is linked to below. For this 10th anniversary retrospective, however, Britt has penned a new introduction into his works, which is as follows.]

Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous opened on September 13, 2000, a couple of weeks before the release of Radiohead's Kid A. The overwhelmingly positive reviews for Almost Famous praised the film's magical, rose-colored vision of rock and roll's past golden age. Kid A was also set to receive a sort of declaration on the state of rock music, but the tone could not have been more different. Supporters and detractors of Kid A were united in acknowledging that Radiohead had taken the sizable amounts of commercial and critical capital they had earned in the 1990s and seized the opportunity to transform the sonic boundaries of rock.

For several reasons, I'm generally skeptical when I hear people refer to rock bands providing "a religious experience" through their music. I understand heightened emotions, I take pleasure in the patterns created by rhythm, melody, and harmony, and I enjoy seeing a crowd united by their enthusiasm for a band. Yet these are all still fundamentally earthbound elements. Nevertheless, when Kid A arrived, it became a kind of ritual for me. Without exaggeration, I recall listening to only Kid A for about forty days. There were plenty of exciting, worthwhile albums in 2000, but for that period I neglected them. Was this overkill? Probably so, but each successive day I found myself searching for, and finding, new sounds within the mysterious, paradoxical set of ten songs.

Sometime in early October, in the midst of my Kid A marathon, I went with my friend Mike to see Almost Famous. In the car on the way to the theater, we listened to Kid A, which had become second nature. Ten years later, to look back at that moment in time is to recognize an unlikely intersection of ideals.

Almost Famous sweetly brought to life a rock and roll era that flourished and burned out before I was born. In the film, by the time groupie Penny Lane says, "It's all happening", I suspect Crowe has too romantically fed us the sentiment. However, he and his characters succeed in making me want to believe the fiction. In contrast, Thom Yorke patently rejects the rock and roll dream on Kid A's "How to Disappear Completely", singing, "I'm not here / this isn't happening". I understand his resistance, and he almost convinces me that rock is dead. That which is timeless and lasting about rock music lies somewhere between these two essences: sometimes it's happening, and sometime it's not.

Kid A didn't actually define the future of rock and roll any more than Almost Famous told the whole story of its past. Radiohead moved on to other, equally adventurous projects, continuing to carve a unique, overachieving path through the art and industry of music. Perhaps the album is the band's Low or its Remain in Light. Whatever Kid A is, no serious contender has emerged in the past decade to dislodge it as the attention-demanding musical release of a generation.

Read Thomas Britt's original feature about the reissues here.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.


Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.


'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.


ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.


The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.