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“This Kid A Mnesia Release is a Lump of Coal in My Stocking”

After weeks of waiting, nothing came. I’d been too busy and prone to spacing out for close to a month, or however long it’s been since Radiohead dropped its latest missive on us from on high, this time an amalgamation of 2000’s Kid A and 2001’s Amnesiac (delivered in brilliant portmanteau in the title), until today, when the snowy weather and the Monday positioning of the week put me in a Radiohead mood. Actually I’d planned to go A Moon Shaped Pool/Anima [1] at work last week but the weather got sunny… stick in the spokes!

Well the mood was set BRILLIANTLY tonight by this wintery front that came in so I thought I’d throw on Kid A Mnesia and see what all the fuss was about. It was my assumption that it was just Kid A and then Amnesiac and then some b-sides and maybe some live tracks but I’d heard it praised so adamantly in the press, or just by The Fire Note, to be exact, that I felt myself getting pretty hyped up. 

Sure enough, the first disc is just the Kid A album. I clicked on “Everything in its Right Place,” the first track, and took in the gorgeous, Pink Floyd-type chord progression, all over that 10-beat meter that always comes across as tickling. I thought it would be cool to create some organic experience of listening to all of Kid A Mnesia front to back but honestly I couldn’t even get through the first track, which is sad, since it’s almost undoubtedly the best song on Kid A. Everything about it just seemed dated and shmaltzy — almost underproduced, kind of, with that hissing synth after the third chorus way too loud, doing tawdry battle with the gazillion other synthesizers on display on this track. From how stale and suffocating it sounded, it was obvious to me that the band didn’t do any progressive remixing to put a distinct punctuation mark on this release. They just slabbed the old albums onto a new platform like a warmed-over pizza from Papa John’s. Halfway into “Everything in its Right Place,” I remembered why I haven’t listened to Kid A straight through in probably over a decade, and this last attempt was no exception. 

Anyway, I ended up scrolling down to see what all else was on this new, super-mega-world-changing release, and found all of… one disc, composed just of outtakes from the studio sessions, that is to say, no live tracks. And here’s a shocker: the outtakes aren’t as good as the stuff they put on the albums. I mean, it’s pretty obvious, when the first track is a redo of a song that, if not BAD, is certainly a bit, uh, challenging, in the first place, “Like Spinning Plates.” On “Like Spinning Plates – ‘Why Us?’ Version,” the general interface pretty much resembles the run-through that made it onto Amnesiac, but the vocals sound horribly unfinished, and what’s more, sung desultorily by Yorke, as if he’s just through the motions. Why us, indeed. This entire release begs that question. And don’t look for any help from Pitchfork, whose Jayson Greene is so showy he should be wearing a clown nose — he offers the opinion that double albums are “bloated beasts,” as if that should be a universal foregone conclusion (it’s ok to just cite band opinions and not claim that as your own, guys… that’s part of journalism), and at one point he calls the Kid A/Amnesiac sessions “fitful,” and then doesn’t even offer one example of said “fitfulness” transpiring. Was Seth Greenwood taken with a wicked case of the syphilis, mate? Well, me, I think I’ll stick to the actual manifest fits on the microphone, as in the vituperative second half of “2 + 2 = 5” and the fomented, maniacal climax in “Go to Sleep,” on an album that actually found them with the creativity and industriousness to get back to rocking spatially and stridently. And yes, I’ll make sure and stow some anti-George W. Bush rancor up for when they re-release that sucker and we all have to make a big deal about it. 

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[1] Anima is Thom Yorke’s solid electro solo effort from 2019. 

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[2] According to the article the two albums were both recorded during one stint in the same studio. 

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