This Isn’t Happening: Radiohead’s “Kid A” and the Beginning of the 21st Century

This Isn’t Happening: Radiohead’s “Kid A” and the Beginning of the 21st Century

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The making and meaning of Radiohead’s groundbreaking, controversial, epoch-defining album, Kid A.

In 1999, as the end of an old century loomed, five musicians entered a recording studio in Paris without a deadline. Their band was widely recognized as the best and most forward-thinking in rock, a rarefied status granting them the time, money, and space to make a masterpiece. But Radiohead didn’t want to make another rock record. Instead, they set out to create the future.

For more than a year, they battled writer’s block, inter-band disagreements, and crippling self-doubt. In the end, however, they produced an album that was not only a complete departure from their prior guitar-based rock sound, it was the sound of a new era, and embodied widespread changes catalyzed by emerging technologies just beginning to take hold of the culture.

What they created was Kid A. At the time, Radiohead’s fourth album divided critics. Some called it an instant classic; others, including the U.K. music magazine Melody Maker, deemed it “Tubby, ostentatious, self-congratulatory…whiny old rubbish”. But two decades later, Kid A sounds like nothing less than an overture for the chaos and confusion of the 21st century.

Acclaimed rock critic Steven Hyden digs deep into the songs, history, legacy, and mystique of Kid A, outlining the album’s pervasive influence and impact on culture, in time for its 20th anniversary. Deploying a mix of criticism, journalism, and personal memoir, Hyden skillfully revisits this enigmatic, alluring LP and investigates the many ways in which Kid A shaped and foreshadowed our world.

©2020 Steven Hyden (P)2020 Hachette Books