Okay, so I wrote a review of this, the latest Radiohead album, like, a month ago. It was great, funny, and biting. It took a few good swings at the guys over at PitchforkMedia.com for their disciple-like glorification of the disc. It featured such gems as
I think every member of the staff of Pitchfork Media should be required to wear identifying pieces of clothing, if not outright brands upon their skin. I'm sure most of them have to endure the indignity of paper hats in their "other" jobs anyway, so I won't wish that upon them again, but I think a general identifying marker, being it a t-shirt with a slogan of some sort on it or the phrase "HYPERBOLIC BOOTLICK" tattooed across their respective foreheads isn't uncalled for...
I think the rest of the world, specifically me, should be able to identify them at a distance. That way, if I were to ever see one of them walking down the street I could summarily beat the crap out of him without having to worry about bludgeoning the innocent.
The point was to expose to the world, or at least to Minion wannabes, the pervasive hyperbolic bullshit that this album has spawned. The Pitchfork crowd isn't the only guilty party, by any means. Spin Magazine called Kid A the "the greatest anti-rock album ever made," while Rolling Stone (bastion of criticism that it is) devoted damn near an entire issue to the thing.
I thought it would be fun (and perhaps even useful, if it poked even a slight hole into the self-aggrandizement that has become The Radiohead Following) to satirize the thing for a bit.
But alas, cruel fate, and a copy editor with a direly linear theory of critical logic stepped in to rob you, the fair reader, of this treat. "Um, this doesn't make any sense," they said. "This first bit is all ranting and raving about Pitchfork and then this second bit is talking about Spin, and then this last bit, man, I don't know what the hell to make of this last bit at all."
Such is the lot of the artist in life: to be forever confined to the linearity of the editors. Oh, woe is me.
Anyway, so now I have to rewrite the damn review, 'cause I'm still lamely responsible for getting it up to the site. So, here we go.
Kid A is interesting in that Radiohead have apparently decided that, rather than live off of the alienation-rock market of the United States they'd rather live off of the alienation-dance-music market of Europe. That's cool and all. That's how they pay the bills, you know. But to suggest that this thing is anything more than a less-than-worthy follow-up to Future Sound Of London's Dead Cities is to fool yourself and reveal your drink-the-Koolaid-if-Jesus-ThomYorke-tells-you-to mentality.
Going through the album itself, there are a couple of Thom-singing-Bjork-songs songs, a Thom-sings-a-Morphine-song song, and a couple of actual Radiohead songs thrown in for good measure. The rest of the disc is filled with the Thom-wants-to-be-a-DJ songs. The songs are pretty good, all around, and eminently listenable, though they are not anything to write home about. They're solid techno-pop on the order of any of Bjork's releases (aside from Post, which is better than Kid A). But they're not all that.
In order for a release to actually warrant the kind of ass-licking praise heaped upon Kid A it has to do one of two things. It can either create something so different and wonderful that it stops you in your tracks, or it can take a pre-existing form and perfect it to such an extent that it shatters the preconceived notions of what is possible within that form. With the material on The Bends and OK, Computer Radiohead accomplished the latter of those two, breathing energy into traditional rock music that hadn't been present for decades. Kid A doesn't accomplish either. As a post-rock record, it's light years behind anything released by Godspeed You Black Emperor! As an electronica-hybrid it's hardly on par with the afore-mentioned FSOL, or The Orb or DJ Shadow for that matter. And as a rock record, it's not.
The only argument for "greatness" that can be made for this disc is that it's a "mainstream" band taking the risk of making an "anti-rock" record, but that doesn't really fly anywhere but in the US. I'd hazard a reasonable guess that the new version of Radiohead is infinitely more of a viable mainstream product in England and Europe than OK, Computer ever was. That's what those European kids all listen too anyway. So that sort of blows the "rock stars taking a major chance" theory right out of the water.
Kid A is an interesting step, a nice, ambient pop record to listen to during your more depressed hours, but nothing more. I can't, for the life of me, figure out what makes anyone think otherwise. I guess that's what a major-label marketing department can do for you. It's certainly not the material itself that is driving this praise.