Kid A emphasises the textural areas that OK Computer suggested. Instead of staying with the rock music that characterised their 1990’s catalogue, Radiohead are exploring more esoteric influences like Brian Eno, 1970s German bands like Can, electronica like Aphex Twin, and jazz like Charles Mingus. Kid A polarised fans; one group intrepidly followed Radiohead into their deconstruction of rock, while the other group moaned about how Radiohead had deserted them.
While Kid A starts with the gentle, hypnotic keyboard groove and backwards vocals of ‘Everything In The Right Place’, it’s often not especially confronting. There is still guitar rock in the form of ‘Optimistic’, which apart from a bit of extra sonic layering, would fit fine onto The Bends, while ‘In Limbo’ is also guitar driven. Perhaps the biggest outlier is ‘Treefingers’, but it’s not unlike the ambient instrumentals that Bowie was including on his 1970s albums like Low, which made #2 on the British charts. ‘The National Anthem’ descends into a free jazz breakdown at the end, but it’s driven by a strong rock groove, and it’s not that difficult to follow.
Kid A is very well done – it’s all memorable, not just a band playing lip service to their influences, and it’s effectively defined the sonic space that Radiohead have inhabited ever since.