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Radiohead's Alien Masterpiece

Radiohead - Kid A
(Capital Records)
5 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Nov.10, 2000

By Tony Bonyata

Finally, an established rock group willing to take a risk. Sure, U2 did it on their electro pop trilogy, Achtung Baby, Zooropa and the techno-dance album Pop. But whereas Bono and company merely slapped the electronic beats and tweaks on top of their already radio friendly hits, British rock act Radiohead have deconstructed this thing called rock and started from ground zero. And because of this, like most great works of art, their latest album, Kid A, will undoubtedly have it's share of mud-slingers.
Three years after the release of their highly unique and critically acclaimed rock opus OK Computer, Radiohead have just recently unveiled their follow-up, which is really anything but... Instead of continuing in the guitar driven, edgy pop vein of their previous work, Radiohead is breaking new ground with a stunning album that, while at first seems cold and alienated, slowly unfolds into a grand atmospheric journey.
Radiohead - Kid A Amidst the icy opening keyboards and whirling chatter, vocalist Thom Yorke matter-of-factly croons on "Everything In It's Right Place," as if he'd just been abducted by aliens but can't quite remember enough to explain the whole ordeal. Can't remember, that is, until he falls into a trance and garbles out the gentle computer-enhanced musings on the otherworldly lullaby, "Kid A." Sounding refreshingly unlike anything else, even though traces of Eno and Aphex Twins seep to mind, Kid A proves to be an intelligent, modern masterpiece that brings the ambient soundscapes to the forefront and cleverly buries the song structures beneath many layers. This approach slowly lures it's listeners in, not with catchy melodies, guitar hooks or sing-song choruses, but rather through an inquisitive sense of deja vu, which deepens with each listen.
Taking roads not previously traveled has led them to, not only new destinations but, seemingly, new planets as well - proving once and for all that there must be life on Mars. Amid a hypnotic bass-line and spacey ghost-winds, "The National Anthem," unfolds into a dissonant free form of jazz, full of antagonist horns that would make Ornette Coleman beam. Yorke's impassioned vocals inflect a sense of urgency over the hypnotic, skittish beats, scratches and bleeps that transcend from speaker to speaker on "Idioteque," while his haunting phrasings on the highly textured "How To Disappear Completely," majestically weave in and out.
While the song "Optimistic" may be the closest thing to traditional rock on the album - in the most untraditional of ways, songs like the ethereal "Treefingers," and the longing hymn of "Motion Picture Soundtrack," prove that this is one of the few bands brave enough to take rock music into the future. You may now begin the new millennium.

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