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Between the Grooves of Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’

Radiohead's Kid A turns 20 today. Ten writers tackle each track (yes, even the bonus blip at the end), and we soon discover how, truly, everything is in its right place.

Kid A
Radiohead
Parlophone / Capitol
2 October 2000

1. “Everything in Its Right Place”

I still remember where I first listened to Kid A. There aren’t many albums I can say that about, but most of us at least remember how ridiculously anticipated the album was as the follow-up to OK Computer. Sure, that sense of anticipation is at least part of why I vividly remember putting the disc on in my car stereo as I left the parking lot of Port Huron, Michigan’s only mall. No, the reason the memory is so vivid is nearly entirely because of “Everything in Its Right Place”. The song opens the album with warm electric piano chords, and subtle bass, glitchy vocal sound effects, and a soft kick drum beat before Thom Yorke’s falsetto slides in on top of the mix. I fell in love with it instantly.

Kid A was an album that featured all sorts of rumors in the hype leading up to its release. But it hit before the internet really became a force in the music world (no leaks, unlike the follow-up Amnesiac). And with the band doing no promotion, including no lead single, nobody knew quite what to expect. We knew Radiohead was going in a more electronic direction, and that it would probably be challenging and weird. Kid A proved to be both of those things, but by putting “Everything in its Right Place” first on the disc, the band let us know that they hadn’t abandoned melody and songwriting in their quest to expand their musical horizons.

Still, the song effectively teases what is to come on the rest of the album. Those glitchy vocal effects pop in, under, and between the rest of the track’s music. There is a lot of atmospheric, electronically manipulated strangeness zipping around the margins of “Everything in Its Right Place”, and it finally begins to engulf Yorke’s lead vocal as the song fades out in its final 40 seconds. It’s key that the disintegration doesn’t happen until the end, though, because what you remember about the song is its melodic elements.

Kid A has developed the reputation of being a cold, dispassionate album, but the opening track is full of warmth and emotion. Yorke sounds stressed-out, singing about “sucking a lemon” and not quite hearing “what was that you tried to say”, but placed in the context of the song’s low-key musical bedrock, he feels a lot less stressed than he sounds. The album’s first song elements come together perfectly, both as a composition and as a table-setter for the rest of the disc. “Everything in its Right Place” lives up to its name. — Chris Conaton

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