AT THIS POINT, lovers of rock and roll music simply have to swallow the fact that every sound, beat, and fucking chord progression known to humankind is available at the touch of a button. This leaves even stunning pop songwriters like Radiohead to make the self-indulgent choice to completely abandon talent for aesthetics--as in, we don't sweat for music, we select it. Ooh, press that button right there. Mmm, that sounds great....
What disappoints most about Radiohead's Kid A is that the band has chosen to bypass all that makes them beautiful. There's little guitar, bass, or drums, and Thom Yorke's delivery is more often precious and simply repetitive than inspired and significant, as it had been on Radiohead's prior recordings. Still, it's almost possible to genuinely like the 10 "songs" on this record. "How to Disappear Completely" is a lovely headphone experience that turns gratuitous about five and a half minutes into the track, when Yorke lets us know how much he's in love with his own falsetto.
Even better is "Optimistic," the closest Kid A gets to a much-anticipated Radiohead song. Not surprisingly, out of its simple rock and roll, guitar-driven structure comes a voice that is recognizable: Hey, that's Thom Yorke. What a great singer. "Idioteque" is the most satisfying song on the record--a melodic, loopy, cut-and-pasted track, carried on the strength of Yorke's transcendent sense of melody alone. Again, having found a vocal riff to rip into, Yorke's voice proves itself to be the evocation of emotion around which Radiohead's success is founded. Sounding equally melodic but far less persuasive, Yorke simply irritates on "Morning Bell," a squawky, electro-jazzy performance in which he shrilly trumpets, "Where'd you paaaahk the caaaaah?" All players involved then begin to noodle and meander around a two-note bassline.
"Motion Picture Soundtrack" is a gorgeous way to close the record, with Yorke singing gently over a simple organ vamp until his performance is (surprise) buried in lots of electronic noise. The song ends... there's silence for a very long time... and then there's a bit at the end that's not a song, just some notes. Brilliant, guys.