Where were you when you immersed yourself in Radiohead’s music for the first time? For me, this journey started back in 2011 – A 16-year-old kid, lonely at school, picked on by the ‘cool kids’, completely disillusioned with life and feeling like every single problem I faced was potentially life-ending. The drama, eh? I don’t know many Radiohead superfans, and I’m not sure whether anything I’ve written so far has resonated with anyone, but that was my life. It’s weird how music has the ability to change all that, and even weirder how a band as sombre and depressing (as cliched and overused that word is to describe their music), made me feel optimistic about life again. I distinctly remember that experience of listening, and I mean really listening, to Kid A for the first time. A family road trip in the Swiss Alps near to where I grew up, I was in the back seat, with headphones on, listening to this piece of music I learnt about that morning. I remember it being sunny, as my parents were driving through the valley overlooking the sharp mountain range in the distance. It was almost like a mirror image of the album cover. The coldness of “Everything In Its Right Place” clicked. The warm synths contrasted Thom Yorke’s cold vocal delivery, the squealing vocal pitch – everything suddenly clicked as I was glaring out of the window, enamoured and overwhelmed by everything. From then on, I became hooked, almost to the point of full obsession. The pretentiousness of Radiohead fans thinking they make the greatest music ever is still an ongoing stereotype and joke, but for me, I genuinely felt this due to the weight of their music. “How To Disappear Completely” is still to me one of their best records to date, while the jittery wonder of “Kid A” and the overwhelmingly powerful bass of “The National Anthem” are still musical highlights for me I revisit actively to this day.
Amnesiac, released in 2001, was recorded in the same sessions and is often disregarded as a b-side project, though that in itself is pretty disrespectful. It’s one of my favourite albums of theirs, with stunning and chilling moments like “Pyramid Song” and “Life In A Glasshouse” being some of their most captivating moments on record. What was interesting to me at the time was that even though these two albums were pretty much recorded in the same sessions, they had distinctly different sounds and charms. In my personal opinion, and something I wouldn’t care to argue with anyone, Amnesiac actually sounds more cohesive as a whole. There’s just something about the sequencing of that album and the band’s ability to create this intimate, introspective and warm listening experience that makes me gravitate more towards it than the skeletal and cold Kid A. It’s maybe due to the fact that that the first time I properly listened to and immersed myself in Amnesiac was in the comfort of my own bed, with headphones on, as the rain from outside was creating this moody experience. The backwards recording of “Like Spinning Plates” is still a work of genius to me, and the raw groove of “I Might Be Wrong” can literally be an hour long and I wouldn’t care. It’s that good.
10 years since I first discovered them, I feel like I’m experiencing new life with their music. Kid A Mnesia reissues their two back-to-back classics (and personal favourites of mine, with an additional 12 tracks of reworks, reimaginations, and new (to us at least) music. Listening to the album now, with these new additions, makes me feel like I’m at a school reunion with friends I haven’t seen in ages. We’re now grown, different, but still carry the weight of our experiences together, sharing stories and anecdotes of our past. “Like Spinning Plates (Why Us?’ Version)” kicks the new, third-disc off with haunting piano keys that almost overshadow the distortion of the original. The power and emotion behind the piano keys is what makes this such a poignant listen. The glittery electronics of “Untitled V1” make way for the dreamy “Fog (Again Again Version)”, a soft and synth-led version of the Amnesiac B-side. “If You Say the Word” has these Krautrock guitar leads that are haunting and super poignant, and is one of my favourites out of these new tracks. The distortions here, Thom’s incredible vocals, Colin Greenwood’s subdued but powerful basslines, Phil Selway’s incredible drumming, everything is just perfect here. “Follow Me Around” is more of a guitar-driven, acoustic track which could have been a welcome, fitting addition to OK Computer. Thom’s vocals here are almost Kurt Cobain- like, with a growl that just captures this incredibly raw energy. “Pulk/Pull (True Love Waits Version)” is an interesting mix of both tracks that fit pretty well with these dominant basslines and slight sonic distortions in additions to the already heavy instrumental, as the warm melody of “True Love Waits” is met with the iciness of that instrumental. “The Morning Bell (In The Dark Version)” gives the Kid A classic (and one of my favourites off the original album) a haunting synth lead that is stripped back and quite minimalistic, while “Pyramid Strings” has these grand, eerie and overpowering strings that are met with subtle quirky sound effects. The urgency of “Alt. Fast Track” are just crazy to me, and showcase Jonny Greenwood’s incredible talents as a composer. “Untitled V3” has this incredible harp melody that is truly mesmeric and carries on to the incredibly haunting and just flawless closer “How to Disappear into Strings.” “How to Disappear Completely” is already one of their most emotive and compositionally breathtaking tracks they’ve ever made, but this string-led version is, at least instrumentally, more stunning and eerie than anything I’ve listened to recently. It’s an incredible way to close out this incredible, impactful, stunning body of work.
This re-issue celebrates two works of art in Kid A and Amnesiac so perfectly, with additional tracks that add so much to the depth of their musical compositions. Kid A Mnesia makes me feel like I’m exploring their music for the first time again, with childlike wonder, immersed into their expansive and thrilling experimental world of sound. Check out their website for info on orders of their reissue, plus other cool things. Listen to Kid A Mnesia below!