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Sunday, 1 October, 2000, 05:19 GMT 06:19 UK
CD Review: Radiohead
Radiohead
Kid A (Parlophone)
By BBC News Online's Jatinder Sidhu

Radiohead are back with a difficult, emotionally taut new album which will be a delight to die-hard fans, but may lose them their wider appeal.

With their last two albums considered by critics and fans alike among the best records ever, they were always going to have a hard time knowing what to serve up next.

But they have taken a risk with new sounds, substituting their trademark melody and plaintive vocals for insistent bass-driven rhythms and electronic wizardry.

Singer Thom Yorke's distorted and at times strangulated vocals are definitely not singalong, and the noisy distortion and hard-edged electronic beats are unlikely to fill many dancefloors.

But underneath the inaccessible veneer there are some very hummable tunes.

Odd sounds

Everything In Its Right Place sets the tone, insisting on affirming the truths that hold the world together, while slyly undermining them.

Radiohead
No singles are to be released from Kid A, Radiohead's fourth album
Yorke's voice is sampled to pieces so that it sounds like Eskimo throat-singing, accompanied by an echoey electric organ.

The title track, Kid A - which refers to a child's voice on a computer programme used for sampling - highlights how different, and at times impenetrable, the album is from previous offerings.

The pattering xylophone and drum-machine opening is followed by odd-sounding electronic vocals - perhaps Stephen Hawking doing a wobbly Tom Waits impression.

Working out the lyrics is nigh-on impossible - they are not given in the accompanying booklet.

The words are clearer in the next track, (Everyone) The National Anthem, but few may want to sing along: "Everyone around here/ Everyone is so near / We're so alone."

Featuring a meaty fuzz-bass intro and metallically distorted Yorke, the irony-laden song ends with a blinding brass band cacophony.

Mournful

Thom Yorke
Thom Yorke's vocals are sampled, contorted and at times eerily strangulated
Backed up by an orchestra, on How To Disappear Completely Yorke sings mournfully about his sudden dizziness faced with a 38,000-strong crowd in Dublin: "That man, that's not me / I go, where I please / I walk through walls / I float down the Liffey / I'm not here."

Optimistic is another magnetic track, building up to jangly guitars overlaid with harmonious murmuring, with a sneering take on an aggressive world: "The big fish eat the little ones / Not my problem give me some / You can try the best you can."

A funky interlude on organ blends into Yorke's layered vocals on In Limbo, with a catchy tune driven by a syncopated guitar sound.

Techno revival

The techno-sounding Idioteque, with its ripping snare drums and thumping 1980s bass has a strange, pared-down quality, Yorke's vocals conveying a strained desperation.

In the most accessible track on the album, a dry look at amnesia called Morning Bell, Yorke asks himself "where'd you park the car?" to a skipping drum and gorgeous synth-piano backbone.

But breaking up the flow is the three-and-a-half minute self-indulgent dirge, Treefingers. As movie mood music, or even as a hidden instrumental track, it would have done fine, but not slap bang in the middle of the album.

Having already announced that no singles are going to be released from Kid A, Radiohead were always unlikely to repeat the huge leap forward that was OK Computer.

Some listeners are going to be furiously skipping between tracks looking for the new angst-ridden anthem, but die-hard fans will not be disappointed.

Kid A is a slow-burner. By the time fans have learned to love it, their next album, expected in Spring 2001, will be wowing the masses.

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See also:

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