CD Review of Kid A Collector’s Edition by Radiohead
Radiohead: Kid A Collector’s Edition
Recommended if you like
Loneliness, alienation, robots
Label
Capitol/EMI
Radiohead:
Kid A Collector’s Edition

Reviewed by David Medsker

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R
adiohead must have loved having the element of surprise on their side when they stunned the world with The Bends in 1995 – it’s easy to forget now, but they were branded one-hit wonders before "Creep" had even peaked as a single – and they were even able to do it again, though on a much smaller scale, when they dropped OK Computer in the summer of 1997. (Because you know, nothing says summer like minor-key dirges about paranoid androids and a pig, in a cage, on antibiotics.) However, when the band took an extra year to record not one but two albums, set for release within months of each other in late 2000 and summer 2001, the eyes of the world were on them, and many of the eyebrows above those eyes were arched. Not only would they never be able to surprise anyone again, they now had pressure to deliver beyond reasonable expectation.

Radiohead

Leave it to Radiohead, then, to release an album of minimalist electronica and jazzcore.

They had developed the rarest of relationships with their fans, where they say, "Trust us, we know what we’re doing," and the fans say, "Okay." Even U2 had to settle down a little after freaking people out with Zooropa and Pop, but Kid A was just the beginning for Radiohead. Indeed, OK Computer, one of the most forward-thinking albums ever made, seems downright quaint by comparison. "Everything in Its Right Place" has Thom Yorke singing against himself (backwards, no less) to the coldest Rhodes ever put to tape, while "The National Anthem" does a "Day in the Life"-style crescendo with a jazz band horn section. Even the moments where the band plays it straight – in other words, when Jonny Greenwood deigns to play his guitar – like "Optimistic" and "In Limbo," it’s a slightly bent kind of straight. The glitchy "Idioteque," meanwhile, practically started its own religion.

With regard to the "Collector’s Edition" aspect of this release, well, that’s questionable. The bonus disc features live versions of every Kid A song except the title track and instrumental "Treefingers," with four songs showing up twice. There are no B-sides, though the non-album track "True Love Waits," which originally appeared on the I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings EP, is here. Odds are, there isn’t anything on this disc that a Radiohead diehard doesn’t already own, and there are no expanded liner notes with which to tease them, either.

The release of Kid A was one of those music "moments" that don’t happen too much anymore, where the world waits breathlessly for one album (Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown, for example). Even rarer is the band that uses that moment to give the public not what it wants, but what it needs, and Radiohead did that here. As crazy as the individual parts may seem on paper, they come together to form a dense, eerie soundscape, with the added bonus of laying the groundwork for the band to go in literally any direction they choose from here. They are the freest band in the world; you can’t help but think that the other bands hate them just a little for it.

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