There isn’t much to say about Radiohead that hasn’t already been said. However, that doesn’t consider any words from the band themselves, especially given their elusivity as individual performers. Radiohead released a reissue of both “Kid A (2000)” and “Amnesiac (2001),” a pair of cult favorites, on Oct. 5. Coming off of arguably one of the best albums of all time, “OK Computer (1997),” Radiohead took a turn to darker, nearly sacrilegious tones to usher in a whole new era.
The band’s main vocalist and songwriter Thom Yorke outlined his despair after the critical acclaim.
“We were trying to chase ourselves away and run as fast as we could in another direction,” Yorke said to Rolling Stone. The band couldn’t have found a more uncharted direction.
Upon its original release, the experimental “Kid A” soared to the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s 200, the band’s highest Billboard position to-date. Not far behind, “Amnesiac” charted at No. 2, outselling the former by 24,000 copies in its first week. 21 years later, fans can enjoy “Kid A Mnesia” to commemorate the scale of the clearest, most hellish soundscapes ever.
Separate from Radiohead’s “OKNOTOK,” the remastered issue for “Ok Computer” with B-sides and rarities, “Kid A Mnesia” shows a world completely melting and slowly falling apart with each reissued track. “Kid A” truly excels to show a blend of electronic-experimental rock with a tinge of darkness from minor chords and Yorke’s fragile vocals. “Amnesiac” continues to be a younger sibling to this darkness in bass-heavier tracks like “I Might be Wrong” and “Dollars and Cents,” but it finds more space with synth drones than its older sibling. Taken from the same era, fans knew that the combination of the two provided a true snapshot of the band’s vision at the time.
The dual-reissue includes new tracks, new mixes and new versions of favorites — yes, a third version of “Morning Bell.” The third disc nearly feels like a new album from the band. It’s easy to tie “Kid A” to “Amnesiac” thematically, considering the eight-month gap in their release. However, “Kid A Mnesiac” displays a resolve to the sound of experimental decay: no dead space in between tracks, more of Yorke’s piano playing and evocative strings. Even down to the sequencing on the third disc, the album is meant to be heard as an additive whole.
“Like Spinning Plates (‘Why Us?’ Version)” plays immediately after “Life in a Glasshouse,” the closer on “Amnesiac.” Without the dark-jazz horn from the latter, you’re introduced to a spiraling, contemplative rework. It’s brighter in a similar way to Yorke’s delicate, haunting work with “Suspiria (2018).” To add, “If You Say the Word” carries the opposite story as the uncompromising “Knives Out:” “If you say the word, if you say the word / Then I’ll come running.” The juxtaposition between the two songs lyrically shows a maturation of songwriting.
What was once an abrasive, darker tone becomes delicate without losing an ounce of sadness. The difference between “Fog” and “Fog (Again Again Version)” is like night and darker-than-night. Stripped of its guitars and percussion, the latest version sounds a lot more like the track’s live performance, unavailable on streaming services until now.
Radiohead uses this depth to give some of their most intimate performances via strings and piano. “Pyramid Strings” strips the original track “Pyramid Song” down even further to its string section, creating a swelling ambiance right before the synth heavy, slow swing style “Alt. Fast Track.”
In “Kid A Mnesia,” they’re taking a whole different approach than the original “Fog” and “Fast-Track,” released before a complete “Amnesiac.” As a band, Radiohead’s reached a level of sonic maturity to tone down the heavy guitar and bass to evoke a deeper emotion in the listener. This is the true beauty behind the reissue — deliberate elaboration of past ideas.
In probably the most captivating performance on the album, “How to Disappear Into Strings” opens up the space for fans to add a new sentiment to the lyrics for “How to Disappear Completely:” “In a little while / I’ll be gone / The moment’s already passed / Yeah it’s gone.” Radiohead knows that you’re mentally adding the lyrics on the instrumental — that’s what makes the fleeting sound that much more heart-wrenching. At some points, each string sounds like it’s desperately reaching for the next.
Altogether, “Kid A Mnesia” is a worthwhile dive into the hearts of Radiohead at one of their most elusive points. To some, the new additions might be lackluster and pretentious; however, to others, “Kid A Mnesiac” is a wonderful reissue that elaborates on an artistic space. “Kid A” made a staple in the alternative-experimental rock scene while “Amnesiac” made the perfect punctuation mark. “Kid A Mnesia” spells out Radiohead’s ability to put music to feelings of anguish, adventure and acceptance.
Mason Stoutamire is an Entertainment Intern for the fall 2021 quarter. He can be reached at email@example.com.