Block mountains

Rainbows over computer generated mountains

The iconic album cover of “Kid A”, designed by the mercurial Stanley Donwood Credits: Radiohead Public Library

In true Radiohead fashion, this album offered a soundscape that was as inhospitable as it was unexpected. The recording process, led by Jonny Greenwood, used synthesizers, keyboards, drum machines and stompboxes to produce unconventional sounds in the alternative music space. A polarizing record, Kid A managed to capture the banality of mainstream music tropes. At the height of their fame and success, the band used their creative power to its fullest potential to subvert the expectations of an entire generation.

Kid A’s themes are a little harder to pin down than OK Computer’s. However, it is painfully obvious from the lyrics that the album represents Thom Yorke at his lowest. The album builds on themes from its 1997 release. The cover depicts the same, depicting a post-apocalyptic, hopeless expanse through freakishly shaped icy mountains. From the first song, Everything In Its Right Place, we become aware of this ambient gloom.

The sprawling trumpet section over the national anthem stands out in this somber collection of songs, symbolizing the dissonance caused by the digitization of the world. Optimistic, In Limbo and Idioteque provide sarcastic political commentary through references to George Orwell ‘farm animal’, fantasy worlds and images of women and children hidden in bunkers. What sets Kid A apart from OK Computer are the themes of failing relationships, especially romantic relationships, which provide little moments of rest, as heard on Morning Bell.

During an interview with the BBC, Yorke was asked to choose a song he would like to be remembered. Without hesitation, he said, “How to Disappear Completely”. A standout song in Radiohead’s discography, it serves as an ode to the thousands who seek to find a moment of silence from the din of 21st century life. The song ends with the words, “I’m not here, it’s not happening.” Composed of the last lines of Motion Picture Soundtrack, the last song on the album, which said, “I’ll see you in the next life” these songs give us an intimate glimpse into the mind of Yorke, the sensitive artist who wishes to stay away from the public.

The rainbow after the storm

In 2001, a few months after the release of Kid A, Radiohead released their fourth album titled amnesic. This included songs recorded during the Kid A. 2003 sessions Hello thief provided even more political commentary. The war on terrorism launched by the United States after the attacks of September 11 has had a great influence. These albums received mixed reviews and fans began to worry about Radiohead’s decline. That was until 2007, which brought with it the band’s most comprehensive album.