Everybody Be Cool: Pitchfork Still Hearts Radiohead
Were you concerned about Radiohead’s “Idioteque” not topping the best-singles-of-the-decade list that the indie-crit behemoth Pitchfork ran last week? Well, fret not: The folks over there still love Radiohead’s 2000 album Kid A, with today’s review reaffirming the 10.0 that it received back in the day, and critic Rob Mitchum calling it “unashamedly… a complete album, one where everything from production to arrangements to lyrics to album art were carefully crafted towards a unified purpose” while nodding to the fact that its creators have made noise about growing weary of that particular format:
Kid A turned out not be the music of the future, but a relic of the past, more in line with dinosaurs like Dark Side of the Moon or Loveless as try-out-your-new-speakers, listen-with-the-lights-off suites. By the time Amnesiac officially arrived, it had been served up piecemeal on the internet, handicapping the final product from reproducing its predecessor’s cohesive structure. From then on, albums have persisted, sure, but they’re increasingly marginalized or stripped for parts– release Kid A today, and many might choose to save or stream “Idioteque” and Recycle-Bin the rest, missing the contextual build and release that makes the album’s demented-disco centerpiece all the more effective.
That’s not a qualitative judgment: The way things are now isn’t better or worse, just different. Technology, of course, is a selection pressure, digital music eroding the arbitrary 45ish-minute barrier that once was dictated by vinyl’s finite diameter. But while a single song will often do, there’s a talent to building and a pleasure in experiencing a dozen songs weaved together into a 40 minutes that’s richer than each individual track, a 12-course meal for special occasions between microwave snacks. Like calligraphy, it’s a fading art, as even Radiohead themselves seem to be disinterested in the format, perpetually threatening to dribble tracks out in ones or fours when the spirit takes them. In the end, one of the many ghosts that haunt the corridors of Kid A is The Album itself, it’s death throes an unsettling funeral for a format that, like so much else, was out of time.