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"I'm not here; this isn't happening."

"Everyone
Everyone is so near
Everyone has got the fear
It's holding on
It's holding on"
"The National Anthem"
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Kid A is the fourth album by English Alternative Rock band Radiohead. Released in October 2000, it marked a new stage of the band's sonic experimentation.

The group had been dabbling in Electronic Music as early as "Planet Telex", the opening track from The Bends, and by their next album OK Computer, its influence on their sound had grown more prominent. Kid A, on the other hand, saw the band dive headfirst into electronica, using it as the structure of certain songs rather than purely for texture.

This change was motivated by the band's burnout following the extensive promotion of OK Computer and the growing number of bands following their example, which — combined with Writer's Block — resulted in frontman Thom Yorke suffering a mental breakdown and becoming disenchanted with not only Radiohead's standard guitar-based music, but with the entire concept of rock as a whole. Listening to acts like Autechre and Aphex Twin drove Yorke to the realization that instrumental electronics could evoke the same emotions from him as guitars. This set the ethos of creating Kid A; among the many influences the band drew from in its production, the album can be best summed up as combining the abstract and artsy electronica of Homogenic with the disjointedly surreal and anxious lyricism of Remain in Light and the lonesome, wintry vibe of Low.

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Upon release, Kid A was a commercial success despite its deliberately uncommercial direction and promotion. Utilizing unorthodox promoting tactics — eschewing singles and music videosnote  for a series of short televised "blips," most of them animated — the album debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 in the USA and went platinum in the UK during opening week, eventually getting Radiohead its second Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album and second Album of the Year nomination. The album also topped the charts in the UK, Canada, France, Ireland, and New Zealand, ultimately becoming the 50th best-selling album of 2000 in the UK.

While the band found Creative Differences over the album's direction, at one point agreeing to split up if no final product could be made, over 20 songs were ultimately produced over a grueling 18-month period. One half is included on Kid A, and the other is on Amnesiac, which came out six months later as a loose companion piece.

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Just over 20 years later, the pair were re-released together as part of the anniversary release Kid A Mnesia, consisting of both albums and a third disc of outtakes in the vein of the OKNOTOK reissue of OK Computer.


Tracklist:

10" One

Alpha
  1. "Everything in Its Right Place" (4:11)
  2. "Kid A" (4:44)

Beta

  1. "The National Anthem" (5:51)
  2. "How to Disappear Completely" (5:56)
  3. "Treefingers" (3:42)

10" Two

Gamma
  1. "Optimistic" (5:15)
  2. "In Limbo" (3:31)

Delta

  1. "Idioteque" (5:09)
  2. "Morning Bell" (4:35)
  3. "Motion Picture Soundtrack" (7:01)note 

Note: CD releases are across a single disc; cassette releases are across a single tape (side 1 containing tracks 1-5 and side two containing tracks 5-10.


We've got tropes on sticks:

  • Album Closure: The album ends with a Hidden Track after a minute's silence past "Motion Picture Soundtrack"'s final note, representing the "next life" to which it was referring. Then there is yet more silence.
  • Album Title Drop: Happens in "Everything in Its Right Place". During the voice loops before the lyrics start, "Kid A" can clearly be heard.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: "Optimistic":
    The big fish eat the little ones
  • Ambient: "Treefingers" marks a brief foray into the genre, produced by sampling and slowing down guitar notes.
  • Arc Words:
    • Interestingly enough, the lyrics for most tracks on this album, Amnesiac, and Hail to the Thief became this. Lyrics from all three albums appeared cryptically (and usually slightly altered) in the Radiohead website's "maze" section.
    • Phrases that would appear in Amnesiac, Hail to the Thief, and the bonus disc in Kid A Mnesia appeared in this album's hidden booklet. For example, you can see the phrase "You and your cronies", which later became a lyric in "You and Whose Army?".
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: How the album ends. The final song "Motion Picture Soundtrack" has an ethereal, heavenly atmosphere (what with the harps and such) and bows out on the line "I will see you in the next life". Additionally, the Hidden Track that plays after this is considered to represent that "next life".
  • Bears Are Bad News: The album's promotional campaign introduced the "modified bear" logo, which would evidently become the band's official mascot.
  • Bittersweet Ending: "Motion Picture Soundtrack", which offers a gentle, ethereal release for the album sound-wise that's juxtaposed with extremely bleak lyrics about lost love that may insinuate suicide.
  • Blipvert: The "blips" used to advertise the album, natch.
  • Bookends:
    • The title track, the second song on the album, opens with the line "I slip away; I slipped on a little white lie." "Motion Picture Soundtrack", the closing song on the album, ends its second verse with the line "they fed us on little white lies."
    • Both the opening and closing tracks are the only ones to be completely devoid of guitar. Every other song features the instrument, oftentimes in unconventional ways (e.g. "Treefingers" being made from manipulated guitar sounds), but not the ones that open and close the album.
  • Breather Episode: "Treefingers" is a calm ambient interlude that's sandwiched between a depressing ballad concluding the more emotionally strenuous first half and a straight-up hard rocker that kicks off the mostly less grueling but still very much dour second half.
  • Broken Record: Most tracks on the album revolve around repeating certain phrases ad infinitum. "The National Anthem" in particular only has a handful of lines, most of which are repeated several times. "How to Disappear Completely" repeats "I'm not here; this isn't happening" several times. "Idioteque" repeats most of its lines two or three times. "Morning Bell" has "Cut the kids in half" repeated three times, most conspicuously. And so on.
  • Call-Back: "Idioteque" calls back to the line, "This is not happening" in "How to Disappear Completely" with the line, "This is really happening".
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Kid A is even bleaker than OK Computer before it, with heavily introspective lyrics that reflect the burnout the band faced from the pressures that OK Computer and its fame brought.
  • Color Motifs: Red, black, and white prominently feature throughout the album artwork and promotional material, inspired by a 1999 photograph of bloodstained footprints in the snow during the Kosovo War.
  • Concept Album: Alongside companion piece Amnesiac, from common interpretation. 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.
  • Continuity Nod: OK Computer had a track called "Exit Music (for a Film)", while Kid A has a track called "Motion Picture Soundtrack".
  • Deranged Animation: Almost all of the album's short "blips" could qualify for this, barring the sliver of live-action ones. They're either downright horrifying/disturbing or simply weird.
    • With many of the 3D models, it's a mix of this and Special Effect Failure, which is likely why they seldom showed the 3D bears clearly in the blips and redesigned them when they revisited the "blip" concept for Amnesiac.
  • Digital Destruction: The streaming release of the album cuts up "Motion Picture Soundtrack" and the unnamed Hidden Track at the end of it into two separate tracks, despite the band stating that the pair are supposed to be viewed as a single piece.
  • Digital Piracy Is Okay:
    • The album was made available for streaming from their website before its official release.
    • When bootlegs of early live performances of the album's 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."
  • Divided for Publication: Kid A and Amnesiac were recorded simultaneously and at one point planned for release as a double album; however, Radiohead ultimately opted to release the two as separate albums six months apart.
  • 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 themselves note . 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. Furthermore, the song's Hidden Track is bookended by a minute of silence, as if in mourning.
  • Drone of Dread: "In Limbo" manages to do this with a human voice, featuring Thom mumbling indistinctly in the background in just the right way to create a lingering, unsettling buzz.
  • Easter Egg: Early pressings of this album had an extra booklet of art and text hidden under the CD tray, with much of this text consisting of lyrics that would later appear on Amnesiac, Hail to the Thief, and the bonus disc of Kid A Mnesia. Pressings with the hidden booklet usually use a black tray to more thoroughly hide it, though it's possible to see it through the spindle holes and in the sides of the case.
  • Epic Rocking: "How to Disappear Completely" and "The National Anthem" are almost 6 minutes long, and "Motion Picture Soundtrack" is 7 minutes long (although two of those are silence).
  • Fading into the Next Song: The phasing synth sound at the end of "Kid A" continues into the very beginning of "The National Anthem", "Optimistic" transitions seamlessly into "In Limbo" through a shoddy loop, and the heavily processed, screechy violin-like loop at the end of "Idioteque" leads into "Morning Bell".
  • Gratuitous Panning: The synth lines and distorted vocal parts in "Everything in Its Right Place" appear in various and alternating channels over the chorus of the song's runtime; very few elements are placed at the center of the mix at any point.
  • Green Aesop: The packaging for the album's promotional singles (handed out exclusively to radio stations) each feature a text blurb describing instances of how global warming has caused sections of the polar ice caps to melt between 1978 and 1999, along with a second passage blaming the phenomenon on human complacency and indifference towards the environment.
  • Grief Song: "In Limbo":
    I'm lost at sea
    Don't bother me
    I've lost my way
    I've lost my way
  • Hidden Track: "Motion Picture Soundtrack" contains a hidden track after a minute of silence following the end of the song. It's usually referred to as "Untitled" or occasionally "Genchildren" note  and most likely represents the heaven or "next life" described at the end of the song. The band has stated that the song and hidden track are not supposed to be isolated, though streaming services didn't follow suit.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The double-10" release of the album (double-LP on most reissues by XL Recordings) names each side after one of the first four letters of the Greek alphabet.
  • Instrumental: "Treefingers" and the Hidden Track.
  • In the Style of...: Hard as it may be to imagine, the arrangement of "Motion Picture Soundtrack" was inspired by the soundtracks of 1950's Disney films.
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: Invoked with the title track, in which Thom's vocals are distorted with a vocoder to distance himself from the song's subject matter. However, this example has since been subverted as the song lyrics have been discovered.
    I slipped away
    I slipped on a little white lie
    We've got heads on sticks
    And you've got ventriloquists
    We've got heads on sticks
    And you've got ventriloquists
    Standing in the shadows at the end of my bed
    Standing in the shadows at the end of my bed
    Standing in the shadows at the end of my bed
    Standing in the shadows at the end of my bed
    The rats and children will follow me out of town
    Rats and children follow me out of their homes
    Come on, kids
  • Instructional Title: "How to Disappear Completely", named after an actual how-to book about how to start a new identity.
  • Just Before the End: Incorporated to different extents by the album artwork, the website, and the blips.
  • Last Note Nightmare: All of the album probably invokes this at some point.
    • "How to Disappear Completely" also has one of these. It's a gently melodic song for a while, with an ondes Martenot backing that builds up during the piece, and then partway through the last chorus it collapses into random slides while the singer continues into the chaos... which then, in turn, shuts down again and is replaced with a strong, pure chord for the final repeat.
    • "In Limbo" ends with a horrifying, electronically modified Thom screaming "come back" as it fades into nothingness, alongside jittery feedback.
    • "Morning Bell" also deserves a mention with Jonny Greenwood's shrieking, coin-generated guitar outro.
    • The only aversions are "Everything in Its Right Place", "Treefingers", and "Motion Picture Soundtrack". In fact, the latter's Hidden Track can only be described as Last Note Sweet Dreams Fuel.
  • Laughing Mad: Invoked on "Idioteque"
    I laugh until my head comes off
  • Limited Lyrics Song: Several songs only have a few lines repeated several times, most conspicuously, the first three.
  • Looped Lyrics: "The National Anthem".
  • Loudness War: Reviewers at the time commented on how much louder and more compressed the album was compared to OK Computer before it, in particular describing "Everything in Its Right Place" as sounding as if it's playing directly behind the listener. Indeed, the album comes in at an average dynamic range of 7, compared to its predecessor's 8, with audible clipping on the Title Track.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: On the surface, "Kid A" sounds like a quiet lullaby, but the lyrics are decidedly the opposite, being a series of eerie Madness Mantras.
  • Madness Mantra: The Title Track off this album consists, for the most part, of Thom muttering lyrics such as "standing in the shadows at the end of my bed", vocoded through an ondes Martenot. Many of the rest of the lyrics invoke this with repeated phrases and themes of mental decay.
  • Moment of Silence: "Motion Picture Soundtrack" features a minute of silence between the main song and the Hidden Track, with an additional minute of silence following that, both times tying into the lyrics that allude to suicide.
  • New Sound Album: After the more straightforward Alternative Rock of their previous albums, this album is a Post-Rock piece with more simplified instrumentation and little use of guitar solos, choosing to emphasize sonic texture and soundscapes over conventional melody. It even dabbles in Electronic Music as well ("Everything In Its Right Place", the title track, "Treefingers", and "Idioteque").
  • Non-Appearing Title: The majority of the tracks on the album qualify, including "Kid A", "The National Anthem", "How To Disappear Completely", "In Limbo", "Idioteque", and "Motion Picture Soundtrack".
  • Non-Indicative Name: "The National Anthem" only sounds like a national anthem in an anxious dystopian sense.
  • Nothing Is Scarier:
    • To this day, nobody knows what the horrible thing that this album represented to Thom was, or the horrible thing that inspired the title track.
    • Although "Treefingers" is soothing out of context, the atmosphere it establishes within context makes it a very offsetting listen along with the rest of the tracks.
  • No Title: The Hidden Track that closes the album lacks an official title; "Genchildren" is a popular fanmade one, stemming from the user who posted the initial leak of the album.
  • Off with His Head!: "Idioteque":
    I laugh until my head comes off
  • Ominous Music Box Tune: The title track centers around a music box-esque melody that sounds tranquil on its own, but its contrasted with processed vocals about mental instability and child abduction.
  • One-Word Title: "Treefingers", "Optimistic", and "Idioteque".
  • Phrase Salad Lyrics: Some of the lyrics came from Thom picking random words and phrases out of a hat.
    • This is especially evident on "Morning Bell", although the song does have a thematic basis in the dissolution of a marriage, and most of the imagery connects to this.
      Where'd you park the car?
      Where'd you park the car?
      Clothes are all over 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...
    • The title track, 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
      And you've got ventriloquists
      Standing in the shadows at the end of my bed
      The rats and the children follow me out of town
    • "Idioteque":
      Who's in a bunker? Who's in a bunker?
      Women and children first, and the children first, and the children
      I'll laugh until my head comes off
      I'll swallow until I burst
      Who's in a bunker? Who's in a bunker?
      I have seen too much, you haven't seen enough, you haven't seen it
      I'll laugh until my head comes off
      Women and children first, and the children first, and the children
      Here I'm allowed
      Everything all of the time
  • Post-Rock: The album borrows a lot of stylistic elements from this genre (namely the focus on timbre and texture over melody and lyrics), to the point where Wikipedia, this wiki, and a number of other sources outright classify it as post-rock (alongside a myriad of other genres).
  • 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 writer's block and the urge to seek a different 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 former sample was actually so important to the song that the band went and emailed Lansky himself to make sure that it was okay with him.
    • 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 a moment in a 1950s Disney film where the colour fades slightly.
    • Other samples floating through the album include the echo-laden snippet of an orchestral performance that appears after 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".
  • Sanity Slippage Song: "How to Disappear Completely":
    I'm not here
    This isn't happening
    I'm not here
    I'm not here
  • Scenery Gorn: Parts of the album artwork incorporate this to varying degrees, especially the blips. Stick figures bleed to death in the snow, genetically modified bears jump off a diving board into a pool of blood, and distant fires rage across frigid, mountainous landscapes. 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 disc and in the booklet 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 by 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 R.E.M. (saying "I'm not here, this isn't happening" was a meditative exercise that R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe recommended to Thom Yorke).
    • "Optimistic" mentions Animal Farm in one line.
    • One "Treefingers" blip features a parody of BBC1's famous "Test Card F" test pattern with a blinking Modified Bear in place of the original Carol Hesse photograph and "TESTSPECIMENS" in place of the channel logo.
    • The line "cut the kids in half" at the end of "Morning Bell" appears to be a nod to one of the stories surrounding the Hebrew king Solomon in The Bible, in which the king responded to a custody dispute between two woman over a child they each claimed they birthed by offering to literally cut the kid in half and give each piece to one of the women— the woman who protested the suggestion was granted custody.
    • One line in the hidden booklet namedrops the PlayStation.
  • Siamese Twin Songs: "Optimistic" → "In Limbo".
  • Single Stanza Song: The title track.
  • Slasher Smile: A caricature of Tony Blair is drawn this way in the album's hidden booklet. It's every bit as unsettling as it sounds. The image mapped on a sphere, or other round object, is the image on the adjacent page of tracing paper.
  • Snow Means Death: Invoked in the album art and liner notes, which feature a combination of abstract polar landscapes and unnerving, violence-implying imagery in tandem with the songs' apocalyptic lyrics. The fact that the art was inspired by a 1999 photograph of bloody footprints in the snow during the Kosovo War aids in this.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: To Merriweather Post Pavilion by Animal Collective. Both albums came out within the same decade, are considered among the greatest albums of that decade, and sport an experimental, electronic-infused sound that emphasizes texture and timbre over traditional melody and lyricism. However, the two are polar opposites beyond those similarities, with Kid A coming out in the first year of the decade and featuring a haunting, minimalist sound with lyrics of apocalypse and personal crisis, and Merriweather Post Pavilion coming out in the last year of the decade and featuring a lushly dense and layered sound with more wistfully abstract lyrics covering broadly romantic themes.
  • The Stinger: The last 20 seconds of "Optimistic" turns the song's melodic structure into a jazzy piece, with the centerpiece being a drum solo.
  • Stylistic Suck: The outro to "Optimistic" is very notably looped in a shoddy manner at its halfway point.
  • Survival Mantra: "I'm not here, this isn't happening" from "How to Disappear Completely". The phrase was actually given to Thom by Michael Stipe to serve this purpose, and Stipe himself would use it as the basis for R.E.M.'s "Disappear" a year later. Stipe later recounted in a 2019 interview how after remembering the basis for "Disappear", he called up Thom to apologize for stealing the concept, to which Thom responded by claiming that it was more R.E.M.'s song after hearing Stipe recite the lyrics to "Disappear".
  • Synth-Pop: "Idioteque" is arguably an example of this, being much more melodic and danceable in its use of Electronic Music than the rest of the album (despite its heavy use of Uncommon Time).
  • 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.
  • Title Track: "Kid A".
  • Uncommon Time:
    • "Everything in Its Right Place" is in 10/4.
    • "Morning Bell" is either in 5/4 or two bars of 4/4 followed by one bar of 3/4.
    • "Idioteque" uses 4/4, 7/8, 6/8, and 10/8.
    • "In Limbo" uses polyrhythms, with several time signatures at once.
  • "Untitled" Title: The Hidden Track that closes the album is usually referred to as "Untitled", most significantly as it's separated from "Motion Picture Soundtrack" on streaming services, against the band's wishes of keeping them together.
  • Variant Cover: CD re-pressings on XL Recordings use the first page of the hidden booklet as the tray art, in place of the CGI mountain range from the original release.
  • White and Red and Eerie All Over: Invoked on the album cover and in the liner notes (both the standard and hidden booklets) to create an atmosphere of overbearing dread reflective of the music and the mental state the band were in at the time. This provides an interesting contrast with the later Amnesiac, which makes more prominent use of Red and Black and Evil All Over.
  • Word-Salad Horror: A lot of the lyrics, as well as most of the text included in the album's hidden booklet. Word of God states that the album's propensity for this trope was directly inspired by the techniques David Byrne used to form the lyrics on Talking Heads' seminal 1980 album Remain in Light; the members of Radiohead were fans of Talking Heads, to the point where their name came from a track off of True Stories, so the adoption of the American band's lyric-writing methods seems to bring things full-circle.
  • Would Hurt a Child: "Morning Bell" includes a repeated plea to "cut the kids in half."

 
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In Limbo - 'Flying Bears'

One of the many 'blipverts' created to advertise Radiohead's Kid A album, featuring the 'modified bear' mascot.

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