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Kid A 20th Anniversary


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Don’t you change your own tastes over time as well? I love Radiohead(‘s music, not the people in the band apart from maybe Ed) because it seems like the band themselves always grow to see flaws of their old stuff and that spurs them toward new directions and creativity. I don’t agree with the way Radiohead stans treat Kid A, which is the same way these same stans once objected to older gen x stans like Hornby talking about how The Bends or OKC. The attitude that the band’s best work was in the past and could never be topped was rightly scorned when that was how their ‘90s work was viewed, but is now a common view on Kid A. Steven Hyden’s book seems to have the thesis that Radiohead’s musical evolution stopped with Kid A, which is just untrue.

I think Kid A is essential to Radiohead’s development, in the same way the Sex Pistols were essential to the development of post-1976 music. Sex Pistols’ music is mostly terrible, and the intentions behind it were even worse than the music, but without their provocation, “ripping it up and starting again” (which yielded not only post punk, but new directions in mainstream rock and pop which was forced to evolve by threat of becoming obsolete) maybe could not have happened, at least it would’ve taken longer.

Kid A was necessary for them to make. As a listening experience it’s not my favorite, and I would even go for Metal Machine Music over it (oh yeah I disagree with Hornby on that issue too, MMM is beautiful ambient music, as long as you’re careful on the volume). I’ve been kind of bored by Kid A since around a year or two after it was my favorite album ever made. Amnesiac was harder to grasp at first, but once I did, that’s the one I always go back to. I Ioved Kid A because I hadn’t heard Bjork and Massive Attack and Bitches Brew and Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter yet at the time, but regardless, it’s the album that made me aware of those kinds of music. It was a perfect gateway to Radiohead as a whole and thereby to all kinds of art, ideas, etc. I just reject the cult around it. Any countercultural status (the main reason it was a great entry point for contrarian kids) has evaporated due to Grammys, Rolling Stone lists etc, what’s left is simply the same patina of forced “Importance” afflicting any of those ‘70s rock records Radiohead themselves made a big point in rejecting. Radiohead would hate Kid A if they were 16 now.

Björk said something this reminds me of in her 2016 RBMA lecture (audio version, very worth listening to)

But I still think we all know this: The arrogance of youth is important. It defines you. What Stravinsky said in his little short book which I can’t remember the name of now, which was basically based on lectures he did, was like, “It’s great to hate.” Which basically means when you are starting out and you kind of can’t stand 90% of the music out there you go, like, “I hate trombones, I hate them so much, I am about to explode! Your breakbeats? I’ve had enough of it!” It’s kind of cool to just do it, to really hate it. When I was in music school, I was like, “I can’t stand Bach and Beethoven. They’re just German old guys.” Just be furious, just totally go there.

Remember, though, that it’s a tool to help you to start knowing what you don’t want, but the point is to figure out what you want. And once you figure out what you want, you have to water that and make that grow. So this kind of “great to hate” business is sort of about pulling out all the weeds and really focusing and trying to figure out what your palette is. And then, what your entry point is if you re-address strings – like I did, I’m totally guilty of, I so slagged them off in my teenage years – in what roundabout way are you going to come and include it again and from a different point of view? I think that is really interesting, too, that’s sort of what makes us human and gives us a sense of time.

I love that when you listen to musicians, what they did when they were 15 and what they did when they were 40, and then again when they were 70, and the fact that they are referring back and forth between stuff. I find that really exciting.

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well sure your tastes change.  thats my point - nothing wrong with the music, its you that changed.  i still enjoy that album, but tbh i don't listen to any band much these days.  lately its all classical.  but i still consider rh one of my favorite bands.  don't think i'd consider myself a 'stan', quite.

i don't know, i don't like to over analyze music, though i appreciate when i do realize something profound has occurred.  its more of an emotional connection, i think.  which, thank god, is one reason i don't have to analyze it to feel it.

i do like what Bjork said there, and what she's saying may be a universal thing that a lot of artists go through, and fans of artists go through, but at the same time it's personal how you go through it.  what you take from the things you hear and like and find meaningful or exciting, and then move beyond that. 

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Nick Hornby? https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2000/10/30/beyond-the-pale

He’s not super interesting, just the dude who wrote (the original) High Fidelity, but it’s weird how true some of his observations feel.

I think one reason people go off edgy music isn’t necessarily that they become more conservative, but maybe they become more committed to left wing beliefs and they start to realize edgelordism, particularly by white dudes, is rarely a challenge to the established order it pretends to oppose, more often ends up feeding into the right, and is therefore neither ideologically admirable nor, in most cases, aesthetically interesting. It’s kind of just laughable. Like, the Bush daughters (who campaigned for their dad and were very much on the same wavelength, at least on issues of Iraq war) were going to Radiohead concerts, at a time when Hail to the Thief was the band’s most recent album. Radiohead’s music has had ups and downs since 2003 but it’s never again prioritized promoting a particular ideology over sounding nice, which is something that happened on some of their earlier work. I think they learned the lesson (Ariel Pink and John Maus provided a great demonstration this week) of how there is nothing inherently rebellious about “weird” let alone “punk” sounds.

I’ve been getting more and more into Everything but the Girl in recent years, to the point that even if I was asked what is my favorite British band of the ‘90s that sometimes uses guitars, I would say they are a lot better than Radiohead. EBTG has some lyrics against the Tories and even implicitly against New Labour (the gentrification of clubbing is maybe a theme in Temperamental, their only album made under Blair), but they never fell for the dumb idea that you would be making a left wing statement just by being noisy or abrasive. EBTG did make some subtly experimental music, but for the most part, their music was ”easier listening” than Radiohead, something that, on a superficial level, a punk might imagine a stereotypical Tory might listen to. Like, there was shock when David Cameron admitted to loving Radiohead and the Smiths. I’m not sure why (particularly with Morrissey’s long history of right wing and racist speeches dating back to the ‘80s, and his own easy listening sound) but I guess everyone has to go through that learning curve on their own, to realize that the music their own conservative parents might not have liked, is not necessarily anti-conservative, just an expression of a particular youth generation.

Missing in the right wing screeds against “wokeness” is the acknowledgment that rating art higher or lower for political reasons is by no means a new thing that has been pioneered by feminists/queer and antiracist activists. Critics have always employed pseudo political reasoning for elevating or denigrating art. The only thing that has changed is *which* art/artists are given the benefit of the doubt politically. In the ‘90s, an easy listening indie duo usually fronted by a woman—even one that sang explicitly sometimes against Tories—was going to get lower scores, whereas a group of men who attended an elite prep school and played loud guitars were somehow assumed as leftist rebels. This is why Walking Wounded or Amplified Heart didn’t get a 10.0 and Kid A or OK Computer did. Radiohead and other (mostly white, male, straight) people who fit the demographic that critics expected of “the left,” were just assumed to represent the left, even if 1. there was little evidence some of these artists were ever leftist to begin with (Nick Cave is a good example... he’s recently made clear his views are kinda right wing, but no one could say this is a surprise, yet some fans treat it as one) 2. even the ones who were left wing, like Thom Yorke, did not necessarily make music that expressed these views or prevented itself from being enjoyed by those of opposing views.

I’m sure there were and are many conservatives who love Everything But the Girl (perhaps even a lot of Republicans, although their US audience is quite a bit smaller and may be more concentrated in the dance community) but once I realized the same exact thing is true for Radiohead even more, I simply listened to the music that sounded better. And Kid A started to sound forced with time, because it seems like it was made with the aim to declare itself uncommodifiable by either capitalism or the right, an aim which time has proven to be naive. Instead of listening to okay music like Kid A that got woke critic points for (allegedly but not really) challenging society, I would rather listen to music that sounds good and has truthful lyrics, like EBTG.

Edit: Tracey Thorn is definitely a Radiohead fan though, and vice versa. Thorn is one of the greatest unacknowledged influences on Thom’s vocal style. He was an EBTG stan as a teen in the ‘80s and I doubt his fandom would’ve lessened once Tracey was doing Massive Attack collabs.

Also I have to say Ben Watt’s early solo stuff is amazing as well. I always viewed him as that guy who came in occasionally as a counterpoint to Tracey, and it provided a nice balance to the records, but both of them really were exceptional on their own, and then even better together. The difference between EBTG and Radiohead’s approach to music has really nothing to do with where they were coming from—a lot of the same post punk ideas and influences—but where they went with it. EBTG in some ways took a lot more risks (going against the new orthodoxies of punk/indie) whereas Radiohead were more conformist for a time.

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On 1/10/2021 at 7:21 AM, no sleeep said:

Sade is better than both but they only made one album in the ‘90s and for mysterious reasons they are seen as an R&B solo artist rather than an indie “guitar band” even though almost all their stuff has guitar.

I can't believe I just found out Sade isn't an R&B solo artist in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty one

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