"I'm not here, this isn't happening."
—How to Disappear Completely
is the fourth album released by Alternative Rock
in fall 2000. Despite not having any music videos or singles, the album saw outstanding commercial success, debuting at #1 in the USA
and becoming platinum in the UK during opening week. (Not surprising, considering the campaign the album was using and the hype that was made after their previous album OK Computer
.) It has currently sold a total of four million copiesnote
. Radiohead won its second Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album, and received a second Album of the Year nomination.
It received praise for introducing rock listeners to more experimental music styles
such as IDM, ambient music & freeform jazz, and while its new sound alienated some
, it is recognized to this day as one of the best albums of the 2000s if not of all time. On Rolling Stone's top 500 albums list, Kid A
not only got the highest ranking of a Radiohead album but also the highest ranking of a 21st century album—at #67
It was followed six months later by another album called Amnesiac
, featuring tracks culled from the same recording sessions as Kid A
- "Everything In Its Right Place" (4:11)
- "Kid A" (4:44)
- "The National Anthem" (5:51)
- "How To Disappear Completely" (5:56)
- "Treefingers" (3:42)
- "Optimistic" (5:15)
- "In Limbo" (3:31)
- "Idioteque" (5:09)
- "Morning Bell" (4:35)
- "Motion Picture Soundtrack" (7:01)
Every trope in its right place:
- Album Title Drop / Subliminal Seduction: The intro to "Everything its Right Place" features a distorted voice saying "Kid A." It says the same thing when you play it backwards.
- Arc Words: Interestingly enough, the lyrics for most tracks on this album as well as Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief became this. Lyrics from all three albums appeared cryptically (and usually slightly altered) in the the Radiohead website's "maze" section.
- Phrases that would appear in Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief appeared in this album's hidden booklet. (For example, here◊ you can see the phrase "you and your cronies", which later became a lyric in "You and Whose Army?".)
- Bittersweet Ending: The final track "Motion Picture Soundtrack", which is one of the most simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting songs of all time.
- Breather Episode: "Treefingers" is a calm Ambient piece that's sandwiched between a depressing ballad and a straight-up hard rocker.
- Broken Record / Looped Lyrics: "Everything In Its Right Place". ALL OF IT.
- Concept Album: Due to popular fan interpretation, as with most of Radiohead's albums.
- Kid A and Amnesiac are suspect, too. The theorizing stems mostly from Thom's suggestion that the former could be about the first human clone, but he denies any intentional meaning. The two albums are clearly counterparts with similar themes (they were recorded at the same time) and it doesn't hurt the concept album theory that the genetically modified bear characters recurred throughout the "blips" of Kid A and Amnesiac, and a track on Amnesiac was named after them ("Hunting Bears").
- Thom has also said that "something traumatic" happened during Kid A and that Amnesiac is "trying to piece together what has happened." Both albums feature artwork of forest fires; for Kid A it's in the distance, while Amnesiac's perspective is from within the forest.
- Deranged Animation: Any of the album's short "blips" could qualify for this. They're either downright horrifying/disturbing or simply weird.
- Digital Piracy Is Evil: A counterexample, since this album was available for streaming from their website before its official release.
- When bootlegs of early live performances of Kid A songs made their way to the internet, the members of the band were both surprised and pleased when fans at concerts already knew the words to these new songs that had only been played once or twice previous. Colin Greenwood told a BBC reporter:
"We played in Barcelona and the next day the entire performance was up on Napster. Three weeks later when we got to play in Israel the audience knew the words to all the new songs and it was wonderful."
- Driven to Suicide: "Motion Picture Soundtrack" (maybe).
- The first and last lines sort of intertwine; the first line ("red wine and sleeping pills") could mean that the narrator is trying to kill themselvesnote . The last line ("I will see you in the next life") could mean that the narrator is dying and will finally find his lover in the afterlife.
- Easter Egg: Early pressings of this album had an extra booklet of art and text hidden under the CD tray.
- Fading into the Next Song: The phasing synth sound at the end of "Kid A" continues into the very beginning of "The National Anthem", and the heavily processed, screechy violin-like loop at the end of "Idioteque" leads into "Morning Bell."
- Grief Song: "In Limbo".
- Indecipherable Lyrics: "Kid A".
- In the Style of...: Hard as it may be to imagine, the arrangement of "Motion Picture Soundtrack" was inspired by the soundtracks of 1950s Disney films.
- Just Before the End: Incorporated to different extents by the album artwork and the blips.
- Last Note Nightmare: Every song save for "Treefingers" and "Motion Picture Soundtrack".
- Looped Lyrics: "The National Anthem"
- Madness Mantra: The Title Track off of this album consists, for the most part, of Thom muttering "standing in the shadows at the end of my bed" over and over, vocoded through an ondes Martenot.
- New Sound Album / Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Introduced an acclaimed experimental/electronic sound (even more so than OK Computer).
- Nothing Is Scarier: Nobody knows what the horrible thing that this album represented to Thom was, or the horrible thing that inspired the song "Kid A".
- Real Life Writes the Plot: As documented in Meeting People Is Easy, Thom Yorke suffered a major case of this during the OK Computer tour, which led to a long period of writers block and the urge to seek a brand new approach. The words to "How to Disappear Completely" stem from this period.
- Sampling: "Idioteque" uses samples from Paul Lansky's "Mild und Liese" and Arthur Krieger's "Short Piece".
- The harp glissandos and double bass sounds from "Motion Picture Soundtrack" were sampled and added by the other band members, though where they got them from is unclear. (Jonny compared the moment they appear into the song with the moment in a fifties Disney film where the colour fades slightly.)
- Other samples floating through the album include the echo-laden snippet of an orchestral performance that appears in the noisy conclusion of "The National Anthem", all of "Treefingers" (which was created by Thom sampling Ed's guitar improvisations and processing them until they didn't sound like a guitar) and the looped jam at the end of "Optimistic"
- Scenery Gorn: Parts of the album artwork incorporate this to varying degrees, the blips especially. Stick figures bleed to death in the snow, their corpses are tossed into pools of blood, distant fires rage across frigid mountainous landscapes, and there is a strong general implication that the world is falling to pieces.
- Shout-Out: According to Stanley Donwood, the red swimming pool that appears on the spine of the CD case, the CD and in the booklet's artwork is a reference to the Alan Moore/Bill Sienkiewicz comic Brought to Light, in which the CIA measures the deaths caused by its state-sponsored terrorism using the equivalent number of 50-gallon swimming pools filled with human blood. Donwood found the image horrifying, and was haunted by it throughout the Kid A/Amnesiac sessions.
- "How to Disappear Completely" pays homage to both U2 ("the Liffey" that Thom floats down runs through U2's hometown of Dublin) and REM (saying "I'm not here, this isn't happening" is a meditative exercise that Michael Stipe recommended to Thom Yorke).
- Single Stanza Song: "Kid A".
- Something Completely Different: Took the spacey electronic sounds of OK Computer and practically created a wholly experimental sound of electronica, while retaining the Progressive Rock elements from before ("How to Disappear Completely", "Optimistic", "In Limbo", "Morning Bell").
- Soundtrack Dissonance: "The National Anthem" doesn't sound like a national anthem at all.
- Take That: The additional artwork booklet that was hidden under the CD tray of early pressings includes a demonic-looking portrait of Tony Blair and Room Full of Crazy-styled text warning about demagoguery and betrayal.
- Word Salad Lyrics:
- Nearly literal example: some of the lyrics on Kid A came from Thom picking random words and phrases out of a hat. The most Egregious example would probably be "Morning Bell":
"Where'd you park the car? / Where'd you park the car? / Clothes are on the lawn with the furniture / And I might as well / I might as well / Sleepy jack the fire drill / Round and round and round and round and round and round and round..."
- This song isn't nearly as random as it appears, however, as it's about the dissolution of a marriage, and most of the imagery connects to this.
- "Kid A", which was apparently created by Jonny on the piano while Thom talked through what he was playing, Jonny processing his voice with an ondes Martenot to produce the melody. There's definite Pied Piper imagery in the song and futuristic elements.
I slipped away/I slipped on a little white lie/We've got heads on sticks/We've got ventriloquists/Standing in the shadows at the end of my bed/The rats and the children follow me out of town, etc.,
Who's in a bunker?/Women and children first and the children first and the children/I laugh until my head comes off/Swallow 'till I burst/Who's in a bunker?/I have seen too much/You haven't seen enough/You haven't seen it/Laugh until my head comes off/Women and children first and the children first and the children/Here I'm alive/everything all of the time