35 Albums in 35 Years: 2000

In an ongoing attempt to bleed my opinions all over your computer screen, I’m selecting one album from every year that I’ve been alive that has some sort of significance to me…and then writing about it. Welcome back to 35 Albums in 35 Years.

 

radiohead2000: Radiohead’s Kid A

It was only going to be a matter of time before I wrote about Radiohead.

Thinking back on it, I don’t believe that there has been another record in my life that had the weight of expectations on it the way Radiohead’s fourth album Kid A did. Well, maybe Guns N’ Roses’ Use Your Illusion albums, but that’s another diatribe for another time. At any rate, Kid A remains the only album that I’ve ever gone to a midnight pre-release party to procure. A whole bunch of us went. It was an event.

Fourteen years later, it holds up remarkably well.

Writers, bloggers, and fans alike have broken down, dissected, and reassembled Kid A’s songs, themes, lyrics, meanings, or lack there of ad nauseum over the last decade plus. The iciness…the paranoia…the wasteland. The band’s writer’s block at the time has been well documented, as well as the pull-a-phrase-out-of-a-hat lyrical experimentation they used while conceiving the album. It seemed to throw critics and fans for a loop. Pop culture writer Chuck Klosterman even postulated that the album was an unintentional soundtrack to the events of 9/11, even though it was released almost a full year before that. The record has inspired a virtual sea of ink, thought, art, and arguments, thanks to its seeming uniqueness in pop music at the time, and to its utter departure from the band’s previously more guitar oriented rock sound. It debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts, which is absolutely crazy if you listen to it. Albums influenced by Aphex Twin are not supposed to chart.

I loved it. I remember pretty vividly driving around Austin after the midnight release listening to it in my friend’s car. It was otherworldly. “Everything in its Right Place” is this weird mix of synthetic tranquility and ominous dread. The title track evokes a feeling of helplessness, adrift and drowning in a manufactured sea of ones and zeros. And then “The National Anthem” kicks in with its nervous baseline and crashing, blaring horns that eke it out until death, clearing the air for the floating, beautiful wonder that is “How to Disappear Completely.” I could keep going through the album, extolling the virtues of each and every cold and glorious track, but honestly, you should just go back and listen to the thing again. Listen and remember how striking and different Kid A sounded when compared to the rest of the pop music landscape of 2000. Listen and remember just how jarring it was for a band to follow up their previous commercial and critical successes with icy electronica and jazz beats. Listen and feel our hearts and limbs break as we all cling to a tiny vestige of hope as Thom Yorke sings, “I will see you in the next life,” on album closer “Motion Picture Soundtrack” before everything fades to silence. And then falls away.

There. Remember how good it was?

I always feel so lucky when I have an album stick to me the way Kid A does. It still makes it into normal rotation all these years later, even if its initial startling impact has softened a bit. Fourteen years and four albums later, what once seemed like such an abrupt transition in sound now feels like a part of the band’s natural progression and evolution. It may just be a piece of a larger whole, but it’s still the perfect soundtrack to a cold, wet, and gray day, wrapped in a blanket, staring out the window, seeking a little solace from our machines.

“Ice age coming. Ice age coming.”

-Favorite song: “How to Disappear Completely”
-Runner up: “The National Anthem”

Some other albums I almost wrote about instead: Broadcast’s The Noise Made by People; The Avalanches’ Since I Left You; Grandaddy’s The Sophtware Slump; Bright Eyes’ Fevers and Mirrors; Deltron 3030’s Deltron 3030; Clinic’s Internal Wrangler.

 

Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

3 Responses to 35 Albums in 35 Years: 2000
  1. […] was indeed around the same exact time that Radiohead release Kid A (which Thomas also wrote about he... joup.co/joup-friday-album-doves-lost-souls
  2. Shawn C Baker

    Shawn C Baker Reply

    As usual sir, fantastic write-up. I’ll tell you, until I heard Kid A I didn’t give a toss about Radiohead. I was so sick of hearing people say that OK Computer was “The rock album of the decade” for several years after it came out that I just shut it out. I had already not cared for their initial single Creep and how it was EVERYWHERE upon its release, nor anything else I heard on Pablo Honey for that matter. I didn’t think it bad music, I just didn’t think it equated to what people were saying about it. Same with The Bends, which years later I came around to acknowledging as a great record, just not one that I care to ever listen to. Because I came in on Kid A – after seeing the band’s performance of Idioteque on SNL and immediately being intrigued – I’ve just never been able to go to Radiohead for guitar driven rock. OK Computer eventually won me over (specifically Climbing the Walls) but it’s the Kid and Hail to the Thief that I routinely go to when I want to listen to this band. And yes sir, Kid A stands up – it’s a very specific mood I’m in when I reach for it but it immediately rewires everything in my world to its frequency once those opening organ notes cue up Everything in its Right Place.

    As an extended side bar, Grez and I used to be in a band called The Yellow House. National Anthem was one of only maybe three covers we did. How? I’d manipulate parameters on an echo effect box for ‘electronics’ until the build up and Joe would break out his Sax and go nuts at all the appropriate parts. I’m not lying or bragging when I say that we really owned it, or our version of it anyway. Grez and I later did an ‘acoustic’ set at Chicago’s late Pontiac Cafe (Read acoustic as sans our drummer and bassist) and we did a fairly decent How to Disappear Completely. Just the once. I mention all this because to walk inside the minds of those songs, even for the briefest of instants and actually maybe channel them, it really showed me that Radiohead had tapped into something with that record – something maybe cosmic, or primordial. Primordial electronics. And that’s why even though I don’t normally go for Klosterman’s writing, I totally buy, probably more than he does even, the validity of the idea that KID A was kind of a aural Tarot Card reading that did indeed forewarn of the events of 9/11. If only there was a way to interpret that stuff.

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