Recorded at the same time and often lumped together – not a view the splendid Kid A Mnesia will change – Kid A and Amnesiac were Radiohead’s response to the madness wrought by OK Computer. Together the pair were a step back from the stadium circuit that was now theirs for the taking, yet simultaneously a musical step forwards.
They sounded astonishing then, and they sound astonishing now. Fuelled by Thom York’s obsessive consumption of the Warp label catalogue and repeated readings of Ian MacDonald’s Beatles biography Revolution In The Head, Kid A (originally scheduled to be titled No Logo) harkened to krautrock while being utterly futuristic.
According to guitarist/keyboard player Jonny Greenwood, Amnesiac had more “straight-ahead” songs (I Might Be Wrong is almost poppy), although Yorke’s vocals on You & Whose Army were delivered through an egg box.
They’re not immediate, but they soon become essential. There’s also a bonus album. Kid Amnesiae includes alternative versions, snatches of sessions and two unreleased songs from the period.
The acoustic, distorted and threatening Follow Mr Around was played live in 2000, while the percussive If You Say The Word offers a different kind of tension. Originally rejected for sounding too edge-free, its bereft broodiness makes it a snug fit.
Of the rest, the instrumental How To Disappear Into Strings adds a stentorian dimension to How To Disappear Completely, while Fog ascends to a whole new level of mystery in its Again Again version. Radiohead’s loving tending of their back catalogue wins out again.