I still remember buying Kid A from a bootleg CD stand (I later bought the limited edition version pictured) in lower Manhattan in October of 2000. I had spent the previous fall traveling through Europe and had rediscovered OK Computer. Pre-iPod I must have given it 100 Discman spins during that 3 month period. It just felt like the perfect album to soundtrack everything I was seeing out of so many train windows. So having fully mastered that record I thought I was ready for Radiohead’s next step. I was wrong. (In retrospect, was anyone ready?) Kid A was something brand new and while I certainly wasn’t turned off by what I heard it took me many trips through, front to back, to even begin to get my head around the record. But one of its greatest strengths, right from the beginning, was that even the things I didn’t understand or thought I didn’t like invited me to come back and try again. It was challenging in a way few records are and it came with a reward – the more you listened the more you loved it. I remember researching and falling in love with Warp records staples like Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada based solely on all the references to them in Kid A reviews. I knew Mingus but can’t say I drew a line straight to “The National Anthem”. But once I listened for it, the influence made sense. Tied together, I began to see some the same space and freedom in electronic music that I had loved in jazz, which started a slow transition from one to the other for me.
Kid A is also tied directly to my move from Florida to New York during one of the city’s coldest winters. An endless city snowstorm turned out to be the album’s ideal backdrop and I can’t imagine a record that could have better captured or helped with the emotions that come with transitioning into a such drastically different lifestyle. New York was difficult and exciting and something I was dead set on mastering. Sound familiar? Kid A was everywhere at the time. I heard it at fashion shows, in stores and some of the more courageous dj’s would even throw on “Idioteque” to ecstatic reaction from the record’s devotees later in the night. I can’t quote you lyrics, I might not even know the song titles in sequence off the top of my head but I don’t know if there is another album that I’ve connected to note for note as deeply as I did with Kid A.
The guys at Pop Matters have posted an excellent series of articles for the album’s 10 year anniversary. The track by track “Between the Grooves” piece is especially good. It really is pretty mind-blowing to me that this record is a decade old and yet still sounds more forward thinking than almost anything out today. Its influence still reverberates in many records that will end up on year end lists including Foals, Darkstar and Flying Lotus. Many people talk about how of the moment it was, how tied it was to the birth of the internet, to the frustration and helplessness people felt after a stolen presidential election but I’ve been listening to it almost non-stop since Friday and I can’t shake how timeless it is. I don’t think it’s possible for me to get tired of it and like any great piece of art each return visit holds the possibility of revealing just one more tiny detail you may have missed the first 936 times you visited it.