Rock Albums That Changed the World: Kid A

Even with having no personnel changes since their inception, few bands in history have shown as steep and varied a progression as Radiohead. The leap of artistry between their somewhat derivative 1993 debut, Pablo Honey and The Bends, their next album two years later is astonishing. Despite their epic single, “Creep,” the grunge-adjacent, emo-tinged anthem that penetrated not only the charts but also the hearts and minds of a generation, the album from which it came was less than memorable. Radiohead may have started out lumped in with Britpop upstarts Oasis and Blur, but once they found their footing, that misguided notion was dispelled pretty quickly.

With The Bends (1995), Radiohead matured past their pastiche impulses (as in the R.E.M. quasi-tribute, “Stop Whispering” from the debut album) and forged a rock band identity so strong and appealing that they soon had their own army of imitators running around, bumping into each other, but few had the ambition and none had their artistic heft. From the lofty perch of The Bends, Radiohead could go anywhere and, in short order, that’s pretty much what they did.

Radiohead was formed in 1985 as On a Friday at Abingdon School, a private school for boys in Abingdon, England, a few miles south of Oxford where they all lived. The band’s name was derived from their weekly rehearsal schedule, held in the school’s music room. While not as exclusive and aristocratic as Eton, Abingdon School is not without a class structure. 

All hailing from decidedly middle-class British families in the area, the boys were treated as townies among the boarding school students at Abingdon and credit Terrence Gilmore-James, the Abingdon music teacher for embracing the outcasts and cultivating in them an enthusiasm for school, music, and the avant-garde, as well as their own talents. Thom Yorke, who was bullied at Abingdon expresses gratitude to Gilmore-James, simply as the only one at that school that was nice to him.

Of the four founding members, Thom Yorke (vocal and guitar) and Colin Greenwood (bass) were in the same grade, Ed O’Brien (guitar) and Philip Selway (drums) were a year ahead. Colin’s multi-instrumentalist younger brother Johnny Greenwood was already playing in Illiterate Hands, but was later to join On a Friday first on harmonica, then keyboards, and eventually becoming the band’s lead guitarist. The essence of the band, according to Colin, was group collaboration, members choosing whether they would play drums, guitar, or bass not on any affinity for any particular instrument, but on what was needed, often switching instruments for inspiration. The unity and identity forged in that collaborative organism lives on in Radiohead today.

Listening to the original 1986 On a Friday demo, the influences are all there — R.E.M. mixed with Smiths and U2. And the music is pretty solid considering it’s a bunch of kids recording in the music room of their high school. The DNA of Radiohead can definitely be detected, especially in the melodies: 

On a Friday – First Demo 1986

By 1987, the group had disbanded when 4 of the members had left for college, but they regrouped in 1991, adding The Pixies to their set of primary influences. They started gigging around Oxford, gaining in popularity, and scoring their first write-up. Ronan Monroe, interviewing the band for his fanzine Curfew, recalls the band as typically shy but then Thom Yorke as being completely focused, driven, and convinced that his band would succeed. Eventually, they came to the attention of shoegaze producer Chris Hufford (Chapterhouse, Slowdive) who offered On a Friday a demo opportunity and ended up becoming the group’s manager along with his partner, Bryce Edge (Hufford and Edge remain the band’s managers to this day).

Colin, who was working at Our Price, a record store in Oxford, slipped the new On a Friday demo one day to EMI Records sales rep Keith Wozencroft, who would soon move to their A&R department and lobby hard for the band’s signing. Despite some doubts, EMI Records liked On a Friday’s demo but insisted on a name change (because, what happens when the band plays a gig on a Thursday?), so the band took their name from the Talking Heads song, “Radio Head” from the True Stories album and Radiohead was born.

Wozencroft succeeded in signing Radiohead to a six-album deal with EMI, first releasing a small collection of On a Friday demos as the Drill EP in May of 1992, printing only 3,000 copies. 

Three of the four Drill songs will soon appear re-recorded on Pablo Honey, but here on “Prove Yourself,” the slightly more lo-fi version on Drill better suits the song, the focus being a little tighter and the Pixies’ sense of contrasting dynamics a bit more pronounced. Check it out:

“Prove Yourself” (Drill version)

EMI next set Radiohead to work with producers Paul Kolderie (Morphine, Uncle Tupelo) and his partner Sean Slade to record their full-length debut. During rehearsals for the Pablo Honey sessions at Chipping Norton Recording Studios, the band spontaneously played through “Creep,” a song Thom Yorke had written at Exeter University in the late 80s. Kolderie and Slade were blown away but assumed it was a cover (Yorke had joked, “this is our Scott Walker song” but he only meant that it was in that dramatic style). Once that confusion was cleared up, the band cut the song in one triumphant take and after a few minimal overdubs, they had their first single in hand.


“Creep” has figured deeply in the story of Radiohead. First, it should be understood that the initial September 1992 release of the single tanked, selling only 6,000 copies and charting at just #78 on the U.K. Singles Chart. BBC Radio One deemed the song “too depressing” and refused to play it. The band released “Anyone Can Play Guitar” as the next single off of Pablo Honey in an effort to promote the album, which only rose to #32. Having initially given up on “Creep,” it came as a surprise to learn that months later, Israeli DJ Yoav Kutner was playing it non-stop, making it a national hit, similar success coming in New Zealand, Spain, and also in Scandinavia. Around the same time, “Creep” was gaining traction in the U.S. as part of a major Alternative Rock trend following Nirvana’s breakout hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Beck’s “Loser” (which “Creep” predates by a year). Helped by an appearance on MTV’s “Beavis and Butthead,” Radiohead ended up with a genuine hit on their hands, nearly topping the Billboard Modern Rock charts, breaking the U.S. Top 40 and, eventually re-issued as a single, reaching #7 on the U.K. Singles Chart in September 1993.

The unimagined success of “Creep” was a blessing and a curse, and finally an enormous catalyst to the band, the biggest one they could hope for, albeit ironically. Essentially, the band’s identity arose out of their collective aversion to playing the monster hit onstage, eventually refusing to play it at all. Instead, the band drove itself to write more interesting material, the tedium giving way to the mining of more and more originality, intention, and character. Radiohead’s own adverse reaction to “Creep” became the band’s rocket fuel, and they traveled farther than any of their peers and most bands in rock on it.

Radiohead has always had the benefit of great producers. Pablo Honey is not a landmark album, but Kolderie and Slade did recognize the potential of “Creep” and pushed hard for it as the single. Despite the delayed payoff, their efforts effectively launched the band and ended up fundamentally influencing the entire arc of their career.

In 1994, after touring tirelessly to promote Pablo Honey, Radiohead had the good fortune of being paired with veteran British producer John Leckie and his phenomenal young recording engineer, Nigel Godrich. Both would loom large in the skyward trajectory of the band. Leckie’s career is marked by good fortune, great timing, and excellent taste, coming up through the ranks at Abbey Road studios as a dutiful tape-op on such classics as Plastic Ono Band and All Things Must Pass, eventually engineering such genre-defining albums as Pink Floyd’s Meddle and Wish You Were Here, along with albums by Paul McCartney, Soft Machine, and the last recordings of Syd Barrett. Leckie would move up to producer with XTC’s first two albums, and the landmark proto-Britpop Stone Roses debut album, as well as mixing the throbbing, quasi-ambient Spiritualized album, Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space


Leckie describes working with Radiohead as an immersive experience. They met at an early 1994 gig when the group was opening for the British folk-rock outfit, James. Leckie was soon sifting through demos, and recalls a rehearsal at a fruit farm “out in the wilds near Oxford.” where he, the two managers, and the heads of A&R at Parlophone U.K. and Capitol U.S. sat through the performance of 30 passion-filled new songs, searching for a single to follow the success of “Creep.” It was difficult to pick which would be a commercial hit out of the songs, which Leckie describes as “all stunning,” but they settled on four and headed to RAK Studio in central London to begin work on “Nice Dream,” “Just,” “The Bends,” and “My Iron Lung.” 

After nine weeks at RAK recording the four songs, plus a few B-sides for the potential single, and some more album tracks recorded with Nigel Godrich (“Black Star” and others), the band took time off to tour the Far East and they reconvened in July 1994, finishing recording for The Bends at The Manor, a studio in Oxford. Like at RAK, Leckie and Godrich used tried and true top-notch recording equipment, API, Neve, and SSL consoles, Neumann, Shure, and AKG microphones, but, through the sound-shaping creativity of the band, managed to forge something new, original and lasting in the tracks of The Bends. Whatever effects and processing they achieved in the studio was committed to the tape during the sessions with the band; very little of that was added at the mixing stage. Leckie claims that by simply pulling up the faders on the multitrack, you can hear what is special about The Bends with nothing added to the mix. It’s all there on the session tapes.

“Planet Telex”

While The Bends was being finalized, Parlophone pre-released “My Iron Lung” as a maxi-single in the U.K. in late 1994 with the B-sides recorded at RAK, but it only reached #24 on the volatile U.K. Singles chart. The label was getting restless for product and with deadlines looming, decided that Leckie was taking too long to complete the album, secretly getting the master tapes to Pablo Honey producers Kolderie and Slade for mixing.

When the album finally came out in March of 1995, it was preceded by two weeks by the “High and Dry/Planet Telex” double-sided single, the former becoming the band’s second breakout hit in the U.S. — ironic since “High and Dry” was, like “Creep,” another song written solely by Thom Yorke at Exeter and plucked out by Kolderie and Slade, who simply remixed the demo and offered it for inclusion on The Bends. Yorke would later lament its popularity, claiming it was “a bad song” (it’s not). The double-sided single reached #17 on the U.K. Singles chart, and while “High and Dry” only got to #78 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S., it did reach #18 on the Alternative Songs chart and was in heavy rotation on MTV, a dubious honor for another song not loved by the band itself.

Overall, the album fared well, selling Platinum in both the U.K. and the States, but its achievement goes well beyond the commercial. It’s with The Bends that Radiohead turns the corner artistically, says lead guitarist Johnny Greenwood. Radiohead started rising in stature among their peers, spawning a host of imitators. The Bends was even named #3 most important Britpop album by Pitchfork, even though Radiohead was much more arty and rock-oriented than any other Britpop band, deeming it “the vent through which its subconscious fumed.” Most importantly, The Bends gave the band enough confidence in their mission as a band to self-produce their next album with the help of Nigel Godrich, the imaginative, genre-exploding epic, OK Computer.


The OK Computer story starts with the making of the song, “Lucky,” which the band worked to completion with Nigel Godrich in one five hour session as a contribution, commissioned by Brian Eno to The Help Album, benefiting children from wartorn areas around the world. Feeling the euphoria of working so fast with such great results, Godrich was hopeful he’d be pulled in for their next album. Yorke was quoted saying that “Lucky” had the sound and mood that would become the thumbprint of OK Computer.

Despite being urged to replicate the success of The Bends with known commodity producers like Scott Litt, in true Radiohead style, the band sought to do the opposite. Instead of creating another melancholy, introspective work that would double down on the proven formula, Radiohead pulled in Godrich as co-producer with the band and sought to create something new, something uplifting, Yorke writing down every thought of positivity he could — ironic that OK Computer would emerge as one of the moodiest, great dystopian works of the 20th Century.

EMT 140 plate reverb

Given an ample recording budget by Parlophone, the first expenditure was the purchase of an expensive second-hand plate reverberation unit, in which almost every sound from the album got bathed. The contraption works by way of a large, heavy steel plate (about 7’ x 3’) suspended inside of a box by springs with a speaker affixed to the center. On either end of the plate are pickups that act as sensitive microphones that capture the resonance as the sound is evenly spread and reverberated throughout the steel. As reverbs go, it’s the smoothest, most “molten” sound you can imagine.

Check out the beautiful, elongating shimmer of a massive, authentic plate reverb:

“Subterranean Homesick Alien”

After recording a set of songwriting demos for OK Computer at their old Pablo Honey haunt Chipping Norton, the band moved to Canned Applause Studio close to home in Oxfordshire and set about self-producing the new album, but it was rough going. Before long, it became apparent that Nigel Godrich was needed in more than an advisory role, as nothing was ever reaching completion, the band jumping from song to song whenever they ran out of ideas. With all five members engaged in playing and singing, an outside ear was found to be necessary just to know when a take was “the one.” Take after take of “No Surprises” yielded nothing conclusive. With Godrich’s guidance, the band ended up returning to take one with some tweaks, completing their second track for the album. With three more songs almost completed, Radiohead took a break from recording for a 13-date American tour, opening for Alanis Morissette, who was supporting her hugely popular Jagged Little Pill album. The group would trot out their new epic, multi-sectioned “Paranoid Android” on the tour, in a 14-minute form, later to be edited down to 6:27 for OK Computer.

After the tour, it was decided that the band would finish the album in the rural town of Bath at the remote St. Catherine’s Court, a historic mansion in the county of Somerset in Western England, which was owned by actress Jane Seymour and sometimes rented out for events. Far away from watchful eyes and pressures of business and schedules, Radiohead set up in various rooms according to the potential of acoustics and, with recording gear brought in by Canned Applause, set about completing OK Computer in their grand but makeshift home studio. For the sake of capturing the most organic band performance as possible, they recorded as many songs as they could while playing together in one room, without any audio separation or extensive baffling (guitarist Ed O’Brien estimating that 80% of the album was cut live without overdubs, including vocals). What’s astounding about the results is that, despite the lack of separation and the lack of control that causes in the mix, despite the makeshift non-studio environment, the album is an audiophile experience, beautifully recorded and a treat for the ears. Usually, there is a tradeoff but OK Computer provides both, the immediacy of an authentic Radiohead performance and one of the most opulent sounding records in rock.


In terms of songwriting and pure craft, OK Computer is a pinnacle achievement, probably the most significant purely artistic expression of guitar-based rock since its heyday in the 1970s. The album is a murderer’s row of moody masterpieces, rooted in the majestic doom of the album’s centerpiece, “Karma Police” and spanning from the suspended menace of “Airbag” to the spooky wistfulness of “Exit Music (For a Film),” from the chiming melodicism of “No Surprises” to the multi-faceted tension of “Paranoid Android.” And the 70s comparisons don’t end there. Unlike any of their albums or those of their contemporaries, Radiohead’s creativity leads them to the abandoned fields of progressive rock on OK Computer. With the heft of Selway’s drumming combined with the moody eclecticism of the music, plus the prog-rock touches and the alternating menace and beauty of the shimmering guitar sounds and acoustic spaces, plus that sumptuous plate reverb, OK Computer is where Led Zeppelin could have ended up if they had survived and never stopped their own steep development.

There is a good argument to be made that OK Computer is itself a rock album that changed the world. Debuting at #1 on the U.K. Albums Chart, its dystopian outlook and dark, mumbled skepticism and outright paranoia was a dagger to the heart of the cocky, guitar-driven glam that made bands like Oasis so dominant in England. Britpop’s decline in the late 90s coincided with the arrival of OK Computer, but then again, the same could be said about the arrival of the Spice Girls and the receding of guitar-driven rock in general, so it’s hard to connect those dots with a lot of precision. Moving forward, the Radiohead sound can distinctly be heard in the next wave of post-Britpop U.K. rock bands, which according to the group, was a big impetus to shift gears completely with their next offering, the unexpected, utterly original Kid A.

Two years after the release of the phenomenal OK Computer, the rock music world was at peak anticipation for the next Radiohead album at the time of Kid A’s arrival. By that time, Radiohead’s audience had come to expect bounding progress from album to album, but instead of another stratospheric advance in guitar-based rock, what they got was an escape from the atmosphere altogether. It’s not until the third song on Kid A, “The National Anthem” that we recognize anything resembling what we know as Radiohead music or even hear what could possibly be a guitar. Instead, through the first two songs, we are treated to purely digital textures, pulses, sustains, vocal treatments, drum processings, blips, glitches, and odd meters. It’s not specifically electronica or hip hop, but whatever this is, it isn’t rock.

“Everything In Its Right Place”

The road to Kid A was nearly impassable. After touring steadily in support of OK Computer, the members of Radiohead were understandably burnt out and in need of a long break. Thom Yorke, besides being physically ill from endless touring, ended up repelled by the whole idea, the sound, and mythology of guitar-based rock. Reverting to his DJ days at Exeter University, Yorke started cooking up digital soundscapes, rejecting traditional songcraft for long, oblique musical essays on texture and rhythm. Listening exclusively in this period to the electronic music of Aphex Twin and Autechre, Yorke’s musical mind became acclimated to the lack of human voices and melody and, as he tells it, started responding to structure in a new and profound way. 

Work started on the album in Paris with Nigel Godrich as producer and Yorke as the primary driver, but one with no songs and given his grating aversion to songcraft, no clear way forward. Listening to Yorke’s sonic fragments and philosophical ramblings, Colin and Johnny feared that the band was staring into an abyss of muddled ideas and arty indulgence. Godrich didn’t understand why the band would want to dismantle the beautiful machine that created the groundbreaking work of art that was OK Computer. Guitarist Ed O’Brien found himself in an unenviable position in a band that wanted to move on from guitar-based rock (he would develop a new technique of manipulating, filtering, and distorting looping sustains, essentially turning his guitar into a synthesizer). Ultimately, Yorke and company did manage to hone their concept and craft enough hooks and melodies to create the compelling and timeless Kid A. Repeated listens not only reveal unappreciated layers and aspects, but cravings for more and more listens.

“The National Anthem”

Three songs in, “The National Anthem” is worth waiting for. It positively cooks in the way of a Brazilian samba, with a fast driving, percolating rhythm, a scorching bassline, and elongated guitar sustains soaring above it, like rocket trails arcing over an active battleground. Yorke’s vocal comes in sounding overexposed, riding on the edge of feedback. It’s the bleeding edge of “Airbag” from OK Computer and a welcome glimpse of familiarity but halfway through the song, a honking baritone sax introduces a free jazz brass cacophony and the familiarity disintegrates into more avant-garde deconstruction, the seams ripping as the song ends up sounding more like a lost Sun Ra track than anything resembling rock.

Of all of Radiohead’s albums, Kid A has the most masterful running order (a.k.a. “sequence”). Out of the fire and smoke of “The National Anthem” emerges, “How to Disappear Completely,” a contender for Radiohead’s most beautiful composition. The out-of-body-experience lyrics pair perfectly with the floating quality of the space-aged ballad music. Over complex textures, sheets of shimmering filtered chords along with a beautifully written string section layering themselves with a strumming acoustic guitar and a churning, polyrhythmic bassline, Thom Yorke’s transparent denials and hollow claims of autonomy paint a sympathetic picture of a man unable to escape a personal hell, made all the more poignant by the beauty of the music.

“How to Disappear Completely”

One of the signature aspects of Kid A is the appearance of beauty in unexpected places, often in the form of Yorke’s lilting vocal melodies, but all through the album in gossamer reverb tails, flute-like guitar sustains, and chiming digital synthesizers balance the sharp edges and barbed-wire textures that fix the Kid A “post-rock” sound in the mind of the listener.

The calming, bell-like synthed-out instrumental “Treefingers” provides either a restful coda to side A (if you are listening on vinyl), or (on CD) a melody-free electronic bridge to the ironically titled caustic rocker, “Optimistic,” a brutal tale about the slaughterhouse and the happy attitudes of the animals that are led to die there for others’ consumption. Yes, that’s an electric guitar, finally, but the rock is undercut once again by the trudging, cymballess tom-toms and shrieking-moaning of the accompanying drones, sounding more like a disemboweled Cramps song than anything close to mainstream rock.

In true Radiohead fashion, all of the songs of Kid A are mood pieces. “In Limbo” is a disjointed, murky descent into guitar arpeggios, staccato electric piano ideas, and oceans of reverb and echo leading to “Idioteque,” the album’s most overtly electronica outing that also possesses the most songlike structure. Its paranoid lyrics and melody fit into a rhyme scheme over a perky dance beat, Yorke’s faux-enthusiasm playing off the title expertly while the moody thrum of faceless synth chords hover. There are various scenes throughout Kid A where Radiohead, the band recedes into anonymity and we could be well listening to one guy and his laptop, or a committee of designers. There is no real evidence for either one and if Kid A is a foray into alienation and the search for human contact, the constant tension between the march of technology and the persistence of blood is the album’s most potent asset. 

“Morning Bell”

The final two tracks of Kid A are seemingly about divorce (“Morning Bell”) and the emotional scars it leaves (“Motion Picture Soundtrack”), but the narrative aspects are never the point with this band. Rather the juxtaposition and counterpoint between the emotions of the text and the subtext that the music provides is the stuff that Radiohead mines, and nowhere do they execute that mission with more artistic success than on Kid A. Though we have seemed to return to human themes at the end of the album, musically, Radiohead is still far afield of where they started as a guitar-based rock band. “Morning Bell” has drums, but they are played in an odd, off kilter meter, and with mechanized precision to the point that we may be listening to a sample or even a programmed rhythm and the musical arrangement is made up of all faceless keyboard parts, as is the wheezy, harmonium-based final track (or is it a pump organ?). “Motion Picture Soundtrack” resigns itself into that most human of spaces, melancholia backed by a single acoustic instrument — but halfway through this emotional tunnel, a light shines, a spectral ray of digital starlight, swirling harps and wordless sopranos which pulls us out the other side — “I will see you in the next life,” and where will that be?

An afterthought actually ends the record, the 52-second electronic drone of “Untitled” doesn’t even attempt to portray a song, but just provides a marker, one last statement that whatever that was, it wasn’t Radiohead, the rock band that blew your mind and restored your rock and roll soul on OK Computer, just two years previous.

With Kid A, Radiohead didn’t just deconstruct the rock paradigm, they left it entirely, or at least they tried to. It’s not a work of great originality, it’s a work of revulsion. It’s a severing. And though we can hear the similarities, we don’t listen to Kid A and Radiohead’s subsequent output in the lineage of Kraftwerk and Bowie’s Berlin Trio and Aphex Twin — we listen to it in the context of rock and roll heritage, Britpop, Pablo Honey and The Bends and OK Computer, or at least that’s where it achieves its resonance. As a punk statement, Kid A doesn’t just tear at the rock ethos it disdains, it obliterates it entirely and leaves its smoldering ruins behind, like a failed planet, set to self-destruct.

But Kid A doesn’t feel or sound like a punk album. There is no discernible anger or build-up of angst. The overriding feeling of the album and the band’s output after Kid A is one of hope and rebirth, like shoots coming up through the pavement or the discovery of water on Mars. There’s an otherworldly quality to Radiohead’s output from this point on but it’s a new world, full of life and promise, a place to inhabit and explore.

As a punk statement, Kid A doesn’t just tear at the rock ethos it disdains, it obliterates it entirely and leaves its smoldering ruins behind, like a failed planet, set to self-destruct.

After the towering achievement of OK Computer, Radiohead’s fourth studio album was highly anticipated and initial sales were through the roof, debuting at #1 on the U.K. Albums Chart and quickly climbing to #1 in the U.S. as well on the Billboard Hot 200, all without the benefit of any released singles or music videos from the album. Released in October 2000, the immediate critical reaction to Kid A ran the gamut, from complete disdain to well-articulated confusion, to glorious praise. As is usual with Radiohead, it takes the world a good amount of time to catch up and now it is widely acclaimed as an innovative masterwork. At the turn of the decade, both Rolling Stone and Pitchfork deemed Kid A the single greatest album of the 2000s.

Radiohead followed up Kid A with a set of recordings produced alongside it, releasing the slightly more song-oriented Amnesiac in mid-2001 and the two albums can be taken as a whole. Subsequent releases by the band would see them dip in and out of electronica, contemporary classical and jazz influences, and even back to guitar-based rock music with complete freedom to the point that, given their gravitational pull on the rock world, the whole pursuit of genre classification now seems to be an antiquated notion, and that could be their ultimate legacy.

As far as their impact on the musicians around them, the pervasive influence of Radiohead has always experienced a delayed reaction, the lag expanding as time went on. “Loser” by Beck came a year after the phenomenon of the similarly self-deprecating “Creep.” Popular bands like Coldplay, Travis, and Doves came out in the early 2000s sounding remarkably similar to Radiohead circa 1995’s The Bends but none of these bands possessed the artistry nor could match the inventiveness and mission of internal growth that Radiohead championed. And as their progress skyrocketed through OK Computer, Kid A, and beyond, not only did Radiohead leave their peers behind, they seemingly took rock’s center of gravity with them.

For its entire existence, the history of rock music has been driven by the relentless coming of the next big thing. Trends and entire movements have marked its progress. Economics have fueled its rise and thrust. Creation, reaction, deconstruction, and reformation have all played a vital role in the development of rock music through its history, each advance fitting into the narrative via the benefit of the most crucial commodity, timing. Radiohead started out like a lot of bands, with little more than some art-rock pretensions, a strong sense of collaboration, and a deep love of a handful of post-punk influences. But even though Radiohead is likely the most imaginative band of their generation, their progression is best understood as almost purely reactive, initially as an answer to the Britpop’s top-heavy swagger, but then in reaction to their own successes. Did OK Computer merely coincide with the demise of Britpop or did it put the final nail in its coffin? Was it coincidence that Kid A came out at the apex of pop’s resurgence and the beginning of rock’s decline as a force in commercial music? Cause and correlation are hard to pin down in hard science and impossible to discern in the arts — it’s for the listener to decide. In the meantime, we have the incredible richness of the recorded history of rock to enjoy. Radiohead continues to create works of excellence, notably what some consider their finest album, 2007’s In Rainbows, while rock fans like us will be just as we were left at the turn of the last millennium, waiting restlessly for the next big thing.

John Leckie on The Bends:

Pitchfork’s 50 Best Britpop Albums:

Photo Credits:
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Abingdon by James Nairne at en.wikipedia

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