My general listening habits can be summed up into two categories- pre Radiohead's Kid A and post Radiohead's Kid A. I was 14 when I started to notice a strange marketing campaign for a then pretty much unknown band to me. There were strange, abstract commericals on MTV on commercial breaks for TRL, (which I watched regularly) advertisements in Billboard magazine, (I've been reading Billboard since I was 11) and to top it all off- the album debuted at #1 on the charts. So on a mild day in October of 2000 on a trip with my grandparents to Columbus, Indiana for a day of shopping, we stopped by a Target, was intrigued by the album and decided I wanted to buy it. At the checkout, the woman gave me a rather odd look once she saw the album cover, and was looking for a parental advisory sticker given I was 14 at the time. (given- southern Indiana is just as conservative as rural Kentucky)
After a mass amount of sleeper success with "OK Computer", Radiohead did a complete 180, invoking an eerie, spacious, electronic album influenced by krautrock and the dark aspects of electronica. As "Faded" by SoulDecision was one of my favorite songs at the time, I didn't get the album at first, which frustrated me. I'd sit downstairs by my computer with my portable CD player (hey, remember those?) and try to make something out of it. Why is every song so complicated yet minimalistic at the same time? What are all of these baffling noises and croons? Finally, after maybe a month had gone by, during maybe the 6th or 7th trudge through the album, it finally clicked. It was a revalation. Not only had my mind been officially expanded, but the foreign concept that a pop song can be more than hooks and melodies came to fruition.
Radiohead was essentially my gateway drug. I'd always been obsessed with music, but my focus completely changed. Out was Contemporary Christian music like Jars of Clay or dcTalk and vh1-centric bands like Matchbox 20, and in were lesser known artists that pushed the envelope- like Jeff Buckley and Sonic Youth. I remember hyping my brother up about Radiohead so much after my awesome discovery that I convinced him to buy "The Bends" while I bought "OK Computer" at the same time. I became such an obsessive fan that I convinced my dad to drive me to Ear-X-Tacy (the go-to indie record store in Louisville) at midnight to purchase their subsequent album, "Amnesiac".
The song "How to Disappear Completely" is by far my favorite song from my favorite album of all time, and I don't know why I've waited this long on my blog to discuss my favorite band ever. It's a very sparse, lengthy tune- repeating the phrase "I'm not here/ This isn't happening". I don't think I completely interpreted that at 14 accurately, but it was pretty much the coolest set of lyrics I'd ever stumbled upon. The very slow buildup to an emotional climax in the song was almost a foreign concept to me, and it was so much more rewarding because of it. Hell, the whole album is amazing, and many may argue that "Idiotheque" or "Optimistic" is the album's zenith- but I'll argue tooth and nail that this is Kid A's best song.
I actually met the producer of the album, Nigel Godrich, during a random encounter at work back in March. I told him how profound of an influence Radiohead has had on my music intake over the years, and he was genuinely appreciative of my admiration. I remember specifically asking him- "So, in recording Kid A- was everyone other than Thom Yorke kind of like- Uhh, what the hell are we doing?" He responded nonchalantly, like he was talking about his best friend, "Oh, there was lots of bickering, but it all worked out." It was so weird to place something so monumental to me in a simple human form. Regardless, Radiohead will always be the end-all/say-all band for me. I've always been obsessed with music, but as I've said- Radiohead was my gateway drug for music. They are the voice of my generation, the way Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd were for the previous.