‘Kid A’, Radiohead’s fourth album, was released October 2, 2000, and marked an epochal moment in the Oxford quintet’s career. Swapping their traditional guitar-led sound for a more computerised palate, it heralded the band’s new digital dawn, not so much breaking with the past as blasting it into infinity. It was a bold move, but one which earned Radiohead endless accolades and which, 16 years on, people are still talking about. In honour of the post-rock masterpiece, we’ve ranked ‘Kid A’s tracks in order of greatness.
10. ‘Morning Picture Soundtrack’
You could say some of Radiohead’s repertoire sounds a bit like film music; it could soundtrack the denouement of a heavy indie flick to perfection. And aptly placed as Kid A’s finale – this song proves their knack for sweeping, cinematic triumphs.
9. ‘Kid A’
Sit back, relax and go to sleep… this is like a beautiful, twisted lullaby, where xylophone-like beats, robotic voices and strange bleating sounds abound. It’s not the biggest – or best – sounding track on the record but that may just be the whole point; it’s like an understated palate cleanser to prepare you for the other courses.
8. ‘Everything In Its Right Place’
This track exists in some kind of warped time vacuum where everything is topsy-turvy and skew-whiff, kind of like a the sound of a tape reel being chewed up by a faulty machine. It’s clever, shiver-inducing and totally brilliant.
The word ‘Treefingers’ is ever so creepy sounding but, paradoxically, this is the least unnerving song on the whole record. Whether the other tracks largely bask in a 100w glow of teeth-chattering beats, this deals in the kind of pure, ambient calm which would do Brian Eno proud.
6. ‘Morning Bell’
Everyone should have ‘Morning Bell’ programmed as their alarm sound – we guarantee it will make you want to jump out of bed and embrace the day. Or maybe that depends on how much you love the falsetto of Thom Yorke’s voice, as it really is quite prominent here…
Largely on account of the guitar’s starring role, ‘Optimistic’ is probably the most ‘Bends’-like track ‘Kid A’ has to offer. With lines such as “you can try the best you can” and “flies are buzzing around my head / vultures circling the dead,” there’s a good chance this is lamenting the pressures of fame, which Thom Yorke famously struggles with.
4. ‘The National Anthem’
How do you think Jeremy Corbyn would feel about singing this one in public? We can hazard a guess that he’d be totally down with the idea. Obviously, it goes without saying that this is miles and miles better than the actual national anthem, but anyone would tell you that – except perhaps the Queen herself.
3. ‘How To Disappear Completely’
What with the minor keys, that lachrymose strum, the soaring strings and, of course, Thom Yorke’s haunting wail, this song pretty much bottles the essence of pure, sonic sadness. No one does misery quite like Radiohead and this is them at their beautifully lowest ebb.
2. ‘In Limbo’
Is ‘In Limbo’ Kid A’s unsung hero? Possibly. A mollifying trip through gently arpeggiated guitar lines and staccato notes, it’s built around Yorke’s soothing cry which delivers poetic lines like “I’m lost at sea” impact, with the impact of a sea-ravaged poet.
You can thank Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood for helping to inspire the birth of this bass-heavey glitchronica – apparently it came about after he stumbled across some experimental computer music tapes from the 1970s and handed them to a wide-eyed Thom Yorke. They’re both sampled on this stunning electronic masterpiece which arguably gives Autechre a run for his money.