Albums of the Decade: Kid A 

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So if you could find an emotion in the throbbing cryogenic Jell-O of "Treefingers," maybe there was still a heart in there somewhere (by which I'm not really sure whether I mean in you or in the Jell-O, but either way). And to set the stage for that, or maybe just to screw with your head (which is really the same thing, in a way), its lead-in was the sparse acoustic lament "How To Disappear Completely," easily among their most touching and tragically alive numbers ever. The precursor to that one, in turn, "The National Anthem," chaotic and abrasively dissonant to a previously unseen degree. This, then, can all make for a bit of a roller coaster of feelings, which all along you aren't entirely sure you're allowed to have anymore.

You are, obviously, but that's the trick; while you're trying to figure that out for yourself, it'll probably win you over. Kid A was lavishly praised upon its release by plenty of folks, but at the same time it's also a textbook example of why the first reading sometimes gets it wrong; I know mine did. I guess sometimes you need to let the little fellers grow up a little bit first.

It is, of course, a little paradoxical to champion as one of the decade's defining records an album that had scarcely come out when the clock struck midnight, as Y2K hysteria was still cooling and election hysteria was on the verge of detonating. But such is the weight of what might well be remembered as Radiohead's peak, the watershed point at which they became the band to emulate for the next decade and beyond, if not directly in aesthetic then at least in spirit and/or titanium testicles. Sure, maybe Kid A isn't your personal album of the decade; even I have moments of infidelity (my sincerest apologies here to both Yoshimi and Marshall Mathers). It's even OK for you to hate it. Really, it is -- I've been there myself, remember. But that it belongs on this list in some form is all but an incontrovertible truth at this point -- and in fact, rather a boring thing to have to defend, so to speak -- because it's the sort of rare record that leaves us all better for its very existence, by proxy landing Radiohead the support of a coalition of scattered brownie points that might have otherwise gone to all manner of other artists. And I'm not alone in this: the amount of music I came to revere, and what I learned in the process, are both exponentially greater than they might have been precisely because I learned how to love this album first. You should try it sometime.


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