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Radiohead - Kid A CD (album) cover

KID A

Radiohead

 

Crossover Prog

3.91 | 543 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

lazland
Prog Reviewer
4 stars In common with many other old style prog fans, I dare say, I lapped up the incredible passion and sheer progressive rock beauty of OK Computer, this on the back of The Bends, itself a loud shout to the world announcing the arrival of an intelligent rock band for the post- rock generation. I thought that Pink Floyd themselves had been reincarnated, and that the future of expansive, conceptual, spacey, progressive rock was utterly assured.

So, with the arrival of the new millennium, this came as a bit of a shock, to say the least. The dancy, trippy, Yorke wailing experimentation of the opening track, Everything In Its Right Place, the title track itself, sounding for all the world like Marvin The Paranoid Android on mogadon, came as a huge, well, it was difficult to describe.

Of course, all of this was done perfectly deliberately. I don't subscribe to the view that the band were frightened of being labelled the new prog alumini. I think it was all a little bit more subtle than that. Yorke, especially, wanted a change, and wanted the band to break the limits, and he found an especially willing accomplice in Jonny Greenwood.

This is an album which splits opinion more than most on this site. Ranging from genius to diabolical, I actually find it somewhere nearer the former. As with its predecessor, there are moments of utter, lovely, beauty on this album. The musicianship is awesome, and Colin Greenwood, especially, absolutely shines on bass, heavy and pounding virtually throughout, and on no track more than the entrancing Morning Bell, which has a bass led melody at the heart of more experimental goings-on elsewhere.

Of course, though, the main focus was on those strange vocals, and the almost complete absence of the younger Greenwood guitar that had so impressed us on the previous two works. I found Yorke's vocals, for perhaps the final time, to be fascinating here, before the new style started to grate on later works. I began, eventually, to really appreciate the almost psychotic experimentation and effects on tracks such as The National Anthem, which does, of course, bare more than a passing resemblance to early Floyd works such as Atom Heart Mother.

Because, at its heart, this is a band right at the top of its game pushing themselves, and refusing to be pigeon holed or stereotyped. Given that this could almost be a definition of classic prog artists such as Hamill/VDGG (and there is more than a little bit of that going on here), Crimson, and Floyd themselves, this is deservedly, I believe, a classic modern progressive rock album.

Of the more experimental tracks, my favourite is Idioteque, at first glance an electronic dance beat led track for the masses, but, again, repeated listens reveal it to be far more interesting and subtle than just that. The beat is hypnotic, and I swear that this is by far the finest vocal performance by Yorke ever. Yep, that's right, even more so than any of the more prog songs on other albums, because the sheer emotion of these vocals, and the exceptionally dark and cold portrayal of a relationship breakdown are utterly incredible. Not all dance influenced electronica is bad. On its own, I regard this track as a masterpiece.

It does settle down in places to something approaching recognisable. The incredibly mournful, and sadly stunning, How To Disappear Completely, is perhaps the best example. That it sounds most like tracks from the predecessor album is, I would venture to suggest, a good illustration of this reviewer's personal tastes, but those guitar bursts, combined with a delicate rhythm section, symphonic strings, and depressed vocals and wails are a joy to listen to. It is one of the finest tracks they have ever recorded, and is starkly magical. Optimistic is one of those relatively straightforward guitar led tracks that all would later hail as a "return to classic Radiohead" in later years, but, even here, the sonic effects, at times, take over and take the track to something altogether different.

This will not be an album to everyone's tastes, that is for sure. I do, however, regard it as the last great Radiohead album. It took an age for me to really appreciate it, but once I did, the time taken was worth it. In my opinion, it is the last album by the band to feature a collection of great songs, rather than just one or two gems amongst a pile of caterwauling dross.

If we had such a rating, 4.5 stars, rounded down to four, because, as excellent as it is, I do not think it is as strong as the previous two, which were both masterpieces.

It is, though, excellent, and highly recommended. Don't be afraid of the experimentation. It works here, and if you are a sucker for the harp, then Motion Picture Soundtrack makes it worth the purchase alone!

lazland | 4/5 |

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