This Week in History: Radiohead’s Game-Changing Album ‘Kid A’

18 years ago, Radiohead releases their masterpiece Kid A.

While Radiohead began pushing boundaries with the release of their landmark 1997 album OK Computer, the record that followed effectively signaled that the band was stepping into new territory and not looking back. Kid A arrived on October 2, 2000, and it showcased Radiohead in a new experimental and much darker state than anything they had done before.

Critics and fans were divided upon the release of Kid A, which saw Radiohead ditch their guitar-driven sound in favour of sequencers, non-traditional song structures, and a synth-heavy approach. Some outlets, like Pitchfork, praised the band for their fearless departure from everything that made them one of the biggest bands in the world, giving the record a 10/10. Others, like author Nick Horny called it “commercial suicide.”

“We felt we had to change everything,” bassist Colin Greenwood said. “There were other guitar bands out there trying to do similar things. We had to move on.”

They also began radically experimenting with their songwriting process. After suffering writer’s block for two years, Yorke cut up all his lyric ideas into pieces. He put them in a top hat and pulled lines out randomly to form phrases. On Kid A, he recited words while Jonny Greenwood manipulated the vocals using an instrument called an Ondes Martenot that was run through a vocoder.

Despite no advanced singles and nothing even remotely resembling a radio single, Kid A debuted at No. 1. It would be the band’s first No. 1 record in America.

Although it was met with rampant division upon its release, Kid A has gone on to be recognized as the band’s most ambitious effort, and one of the most important albums of its era.