3 Years after the perfecting band’s widely successful “OK Computer”, they decided to do the most “Radiohead” move possible and change their sound completely.
How many bands do you know of that sound like Radiohead? Sure, there have been many copy cats in the music industry, but none have tried, or come close, to replicate the sound of Radiohead.
Once pegged “one hit wonders” for their song “Creep” off their Pablo Honey record, Radiohead came back with a vengeance to prove the doubters wrong. The result was a good, yet flawed second album titled “The Bends” which was met with mixed reviews. The album, at the very least, let the music industry know Radiohead was more than just a 90’s band that could get some potential radio time. They were a band willing to take risks, and push the boundaries to not only what they are capable as a musicians, but also what their music could be and represent.
Following “The Bends” the band perfected the sound it seemed they were looking for in their first two records in their global smash “OK Computer.” To some, this was the album they were waiting for. Gone were the days of the one hit wonders many had pegged them for just 4 years prior. With “OK Computer”, the band came out guitars-a-blazin’ with seemingly smash hit after smash hit with tracks like “Paranoid Android” and “Karma Police” getting played on radio stations across the world.
And then…it all went downhill.
Thom Yorke, frontman for the band, came down with a heavy case of writers block after completing the OK computer tour that left many fans of the band wondering if he would even continue making more music. Luckily for us, however he did. The result was Kid A released October 2nd 2000. The album, contained very little guitars (a complete difference from OK Computer) instead focusing on electronic noises they were able to conjure up in the studio.
To get past his writers block, Yorke said that when making the album he would write out sentences or phrases which had no meaning to them whatsoever and mash them around at random. This was a technique he used from the 1980 “Remain in Light” album by Talking Heads, who did a similar thing. The result are some wacky lyrics such as “Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon” which kicks off the album on the track “Everything In Its Right Place”, and “Ice age coming, Ice age coming, let me hear both sides” from the tech infused “Idoteque”. This isn’t the type of album you’d want to put on at a party, and probably isn’t one you can fully appreciate until you’ve heard it a few times.
When the first notes of “Everything in its Right Place” hit your ears, it is like you are magically wished away to the dystopian world the band has created. Everything from the intensive bass in “The National Anthem” to the eerie sounds of “Treefingers” (which fans have pointed out sounds like the music to the cover) up until the final notes of “Motion Picture Soundtrack.” Radiohead takes you on a 47 minute joyride around their heads to a place that is equally innovating as it is exciting and confusing.
To me, what is really revolutionary is the sounds that come from this problem, and the instrumentation the band is able to pull off. Already having won over the critics, they could have played it safe and created 5 more OK Computers, and everyone would have been Ok (no pun intended) with it. Instead, they decided to take a big risk creating music that pushed rock music to its limitations and re-defined what was possible for the genre. This album, to many, is known as the preverbal “line in the sand” where Radiohead went from a nice indie band, to legends in the house of rock.
This is one of my very favorite albums of all time as to me it breaks the wheel and re-invents a new one. The album has received many plays from me over the years, and I do not plan on changing that any time soon.