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When thinking about Radiohead’s fourth album, one question immediately comes to mind: How the hell do you follow up OK Computer? Widely hailed as one of the best rock albums ever by many critics and fans alike, the success of their 1997 masterpiece left even the band itself pondering the same question (as evidenced in the 1999 documentary film Meeting People Is Easy). Their eventual answer was essentially this: We’ll follow it up whatever way we damn well please. The resulting album, Kid A, is proof of that ideal, and certainly no disappointment.

Largely building off tracks like “Meeting in the Aisle” and “Melotonin” (from the Airbag/How’s My Driving? EP), Kid A is heavy on ambience and experimentation. “Everything In Its Right Place” opens the album with a blanket of warm keyboards and the tweaked (but still instantly recognizable) vocals of Thom Yorke. The oddly named title track follows with a lush and surprisingly organic arrangement of electronics, making it clear this album is a kindred spirit to Another Green World-era Brian Eno and the more subdued side of Aphex Twin. That’s not to say, however, that Kid A is an electronica outing. The album also features heavier tracks such as “The National Anthem,” complete with raucous horn breaks, and “Optimistic,” which is buoyed by jangly guitars and almost tribal drumming. Other highlights include the beautiful acoustic guitars and vocals of “How To Disappear Completely,” recalling “Exit Music For A Film” (from OK Computer), and “Morning Bell,” which radiates from speakers like a lullaby with a backbeat.

Sure, Kid A isn’t as accessible as The Bends or OK Computer, but even on this more avant-garde effort, Yorke and the boys still know how to create some fascinating music. Though it may take repeated playing before many of the songs click, patient listeners will certainly be rewarded. And for those still yearning for the poppier side of Radiohead, fear not…word is that the band will release another more rock-oriented album in the spring. Until then, you’ve got Kid A to keep you company through the winter.

--Eric Schneider

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