Kid A is completely different from anything I've listened before its appearance. I don't even know how to start speaking about it... To begin I think I'll talk a little about my experience with this record. When I heard it for the first time, it didn't sound like Radiohead at all. I even had a dream the night I bought it, in which I bought the wrong album. After listening to it more it started to make me feel something, but I didn't know what at the time. I noticed the whole record is filled with riddles and symbols, like the whole limited edition art and packaging, that I kept looking over and over. It's so mysterious and obscure that sometimes I still feel like it's driving me mad... Its artwork is very cold and distant... I felt as if the songs meant something more. They are very different from one another, but connected with the rest at the same time. Soon I realized they were trying to say something, communicate somehow.
Thom Yorke: "I actually went into quite a deep state of shock when Kid A came out. I was really, really amazed at how badly it was being viewed. People were calling it "commercial suicide", blah-blah-blah, and saying that we were being "intentionally difficult". That just blew me away because the music's not that hard to grasp. We're not trying to be difficult.. We're actually trying to communicate but somewhere along the line, we just seemed to piss off a lot of people."
As I said, I think the songs are connected somehow, like in a concept album. It works as a whole, the songs were meant to be played together and the artwork really gets you in the mood of what the album should look like. This album didn't even have any singles or music videos, maybe because it is complete by itself. But instead, it did have video blips, short clips with only half a minute each that illustrate the album's atmosphere and ideas to be played on TV or over the internet. This can be seen as a metaphor, they are commercials for this complete and marketable product.
Yorke: "We didn't make things any easier because we didn't do any videos. We did these commercials because we felt videos were just commercials anyway - why lie about it! But then, of course, they didn't get played as commercials because we couldn't afford to get them on TV because we didn't have a product to sell that was ultimately worth that much (smirks). We weren't playing the magazine game properly. We just felt at the time, "We've earned a licence to do this. Let's just do it. But the media responded by suddenly thinking, "Oh, so they're not going to play ball. We're going to go after them." I just felt, "What the hell's going on'" We're only making music here. Come on."
You can notice that the songs have no number before them when listed in the cd, and that they are centralized, not aligned. That shows that they work together. Also, in the beginning of "Everything in its right place", Thom repeats "Kid A, Kid A". The second song is called Kid A as well... All that makes me think that Kid A is not only the album's name, but its theme.
Yorke: "I think the artwork is the best way of explaining it. The artwork to Kid A was all in the distance. The fires were all going on on the other side of the hill. (...) With Kid A when you sequenced certain tracks together, this play started appearing."
Radiohead released Kid A three years after Ok Computer, the band's biggest selling album to date. The problem is that touring exhaustingly, giving too many interviews and all that was required of them drained them to a point where they couldn't even look at themselves in the mirror.
Yorke: "I think what we want to do is break the cycle of where a band goes on tour for nine months, turns into monsters, then has to sort themselves out and piece together the bits in order to make another album. Or the thing about making records in order to go on tour and all that sort of stuff."
So Kid A was also a reaction against everything that had happened to them after Ok Computer, and that happens everyday with people who put up with it. Not only in the specific case of Radiohead, but everytime we put up with something we shouldn't. Maybe this would not prevent the media harassment from happening again, but it could at least make people think about it.
The system and the media creates and manipulates someone's public image so much that we end up admiring them for something they are not. I'm sure Thom Yorke must feel that pressure on top of him, because he's not a perfect model to follow, he's not special. He's like everyone else. His songs deal with the fact that you have to be "perfect", "normal" and follow a defined path like everyone else in order to be well seen by society and people in general, and ironically this is the person in which they turn him into. One of the ways of looking at Kid A is on how society imposes to us the way we should look and act, so that we can fit the system. How everyone has their right place in the capitalist system as consumers raised by the media, that fit perfectly.
Yorke: "I thought when I got to where I wanted to be, everything would be different. I'd be somewhere else. I thought it'd be all white fluffy clouds. And then I got there. And I'm still here. It's filling the hole, that's all anyone does. And it's still there. It changes shape. And now... eheheh... now it's a triangle."
three shapes (from the old radiohead.com): http://www.radiohead.com/008.html
The song's lyrics mean something as well. They are connected with the album's theme and help understanding what the artist meant to say in each song. I think this is very clear, but Thom keeps saying on interviews that the lyrics were "taken out of a hat", so people think they are meaningless, when it's not that simple.
Yorke: "The lyrics are gibberish but they come out of ideas I've been fighting with for ages about how people are basically just pixels on a screen, unknowingly serving this higher power which is manipulative and destructive, but we're powerless because we can't name it. At the time, the whole global marketplace thing was a major preoccupation of mine. I was reading a lot of stuff about it and it really become a massive part of my writer's block. It sounds daft now, but I couldn't see the point in writing about personal feelings when there were other, far more fundamentally important things to talk about."
Yes, those things are more important, and Radiohead is more and more involved with those issues. The way people are being used by corporations all in the name of money and capitalism is a constant subject on interviews. The way the economics rules the world, how the politicians are just puppets on a string, how we are becoming not human, living for the wrong reasons. All that can be seen on Radiohead's music since The Bends or Ok Computer.
But instead of screaming "everything is wrong!!", "let's take the power back!!" or "come if you think you're hard enough!!" like heavy metal bands do, Thom uses other means to achieve his goals. For example, Kid A is filled with irony and sarcasm. The whole album shows themes of an ice age and glacial times coming, when the actual world situation is on the contrary the ice melting and global heating. With irony he speaks about the subject in a provocative manner, almost challenging the listener. The song "You and Whose Army" from Amnesiac has a very threatening message, but its music and the way it was sung are very soothing.
Yorke: "The reason you create music or art or write is in order to put things in a way you can possibly deal with it, and death is one of those areas. (Becoming annoyed) But we don't seem to spend much time with it, do we? If you're accused of being morbid or bleak, then you're onto a good thing, I'd say. Cos our culture is the most fucking desperate culture, desperately trying to avoid anything vaguely depressing, which is alarming because what's the result? Well, we all know what that is, don't we? We're at a time when we are being presented with undeniable changes in the global climate and fundamental issues that affect every single one of us, and it's the time we're listening to the most hokey shite on the radio and watching vacuous bullshit celebrities being vacuous bullshit celebrities and desperately trying to forget about everything. Which is fine, you know, but personally speaking, I can't do that."
The Radiohead website, radiohead.com, features an address page of politicised "links", from Drop The Debt, to Indymedia to CorpWatch. "A quarter of a million people come through the site every month, and maybe one or two will be curious and go and have a look. They don't have to believe it - who's saying we always believe it? - the point is just having access to other sources of information. You're not gonna get the other side of the story most of the time."
Radiohead uses different sounds and effects on their behalf, to help them communicate exactly what they want. They can distort the vocals, for example, if the effect is needed to make Thom sound like a specific character.
Yorke: "When you're singing, you can use different voices as if you're acting out different parts in a play. I try to sing in a way that fits the lyric and the subject of the song. If we start to fuck with the sounds and with the voice, it becomes more interesting. It gives me licence to say different things. (...) If I describe the music I hear in my head - like, it's two sumo wrestlers fighting it out in a glassware shop, it tickles the other musicians' imaginations, and by trying to create a sound that resembles two sumo wrestlers fighting in a glassware shop, we come up with new sounds."
On interviews, Radiohead are aways asked to explain the records, and as we already know, they don't like the media too much. So, on some ocasions, I could notice a certain hostility in the answers, ironical ones on many occasions. I used some quotes from interviews Thom gave to some magazines and to MTV, but I think I could see when the answers were complete bullshit. I'll put all those interviews in the website soon.
Yorke: "The sad thing is, if an issue is laughed at and patronised by mainstream media, then it's up against it big-time. I read some journalist recently lecturing the anti-globalisation lobby, saying, 'This is the way capitalism works, all capitalism is exploitation and to make it try and do something else, it's never gonna happen.' And it's like, yeah, but where does that leave us? This is somehow God's will? All this? It's God's will that we sit in traffic? It's God's will that millions of people are gonna die this year because of some outmoded economic policies? No, it's not! It's like some deranged sacrificial altar, the high priests of the global economy holding up these millions of children each year, like (Arms aloft) 'We wish to please you! Oh Gods of free trade!' It's like... give us all a fucking break! If there is a Devil at work, then he rests in institutions and not in individuals. Because the beauty of institutions is that any individual can abdicate responsibility. The assumption that we're all utterly powerless, that's the Devil at work."
As I said, the interviews are elusive sometimes, like the one below. But I think I can get something out of it:
Loder: What is "Kid A", by the way? What does that refer to?
Yorke: It was nonsense, but then it also wasn't as well. I don't know why it meant so much to us, because it's just a phrase like any other. But for me, it was born out of an unhealthy obsession with a higher form of... well, I'll tell you. The next stage in human development.
Loder: What would the next stage of human development be?
Yorke: I'm not sure whether it's like a genetic thing or [has to] do with artificial intelligence. But all along the way, while we're making the record and recording, all the time we were away, I just kept meeting people that were talking about it. Talking about the fact that maybe human beings are defunct and maybe human beings eventually sow the seeds of the next higher form of life. They're not quite sure on how to deal with it yet, but they have already started doing it.
I think this is actually a metaphor about how the system, modern society and mostly the big corporations created a pattern on who people should be. They are "cloning" people. Making us all plain, alike. Therefore, we have no names because we are all the same. We are Experiment 015-6... Kid A, B, C, D... Subject 204, Topic 10026, Test Specimen number 00928. We are market statistics. We are being mentally cloned, and the next step on this process is that this perfect "human prototype" (the first one, the one all the others will look like) will take over the earth. There are lots of references to that in the artwork, lyrics (the first of the children, the first of the children!!!) and the video blips. Since everyone will be the same, they will all be one!!
Kid A is each and every single one of us...
Yorke: "Even though I enjoy playing live, I actually enjoy writing and recording more, 'cause that’s the stuff that will end up lasting, you know."
Maybe someday people will get out of their comas.
Each song has its individual message, but all within the mentioned above. Go to songs.htm for each song's interpretation.
Only some Kid A pressings have the hidden booklet and in order to find it you have to take off the black plastic part of the cd case and it should be under it. for those without the booklet, download it here: http://hollywoodandvine.com/radiohead/kida/images/booklet.zip
My name is Lúcio Tamino Hollander, and I live in Brasil. You'll have to excuse my english, because it's not my first language.
G o here if you want to know where those ideas came from.
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