Radiohead's consecutive experimental masterpieces Kid A and Amnesiac have continued to intrigue, perplex, and ultimately astound. Recorded during the same 1999-2000 sessions, their vast sonic landscapes remain objects of envy and emulation. Twenty years later, both releases have been reissued and combined into Kid A Mnesia, a monumental triple album release from XL.
Kid A and Amnesiac, released eight months apart, have always had a big brother/kid brother relationship. They were recorded at the same time, during the same sessions, but Amnesiac inevitably became seen as a repository, the place where the music that wasn't on Kid A found a home. As a standalone album, its reputation has been unsettled since the minute it was released--in a glowing New Yorker profile that same year, Alex Ross watches them tersely correct a hapless young MTV News reporter who accidentally refers to Amnesiac as the "outtakes." "Try again," snapped Phil Selway.
It's not a bad summary of what Radiohead were up to when these albums were recorded. Exhausted and struggling with mental health issues following the ceaseless promotional circus that followed the entirely deserved praise heaped on 1997's apocalyptically angsty nu-prog landmark OK Computer, Yorke was reportedly experiencing a bout of writer's block, as well as being thoroughly disillusioned with the guitar-centricity that Radiohead 's 'brand' was built on. Even the sound of his own voice was to be avoided.
In hindsight, Y2K paranoia seems absurd -- but at the time, it really did feel like the turn of the millennium could reset the world's computer systems, resulting in a cyber-apocalypse that would throw our increasingly digitized world into darkness. It never happened, of course, but it did reflect the mindset of a world that had opened up a Pandora's box of technological possibilities without being quite sure what would come out.
Into this fray marched Radiohead with sibling albums Kid A (2000) and Amnesiac (2001) -- LPs that blended rock music's past with a synthetic future, a sense of dread buzzing through a tangle of circuits and wires.