The 76th installment in the 33 1/3 series finds Marvin Lin, editor-in-chief of the website Tiny Mix Tapes, covering Radiohead’s Kid A, which was released in 2000. He reveals a very deep connection with the material, discovering it while a sophomore college, a time in a young person’s life when strong bonds are developed with music and artists and lofty ideas.
And for those readers who attended college, Lin takes them back to those days at the start of a semester/quarter when a student would consider enrolling in a class by going over the syllabus. He does this in the Introduction where posing questions such as “If transcendence goes beyond the exploits of the free market, can it also be a tool with which to subvert its most hideous symptoms? Is transcendence a sensibility that lies beyond capitalism’s industrialized, atomized, mechanized articulations?” will determine whether such deep analysis is desired.
Radiohead drummer/percussionist Phil Selway makes clear his position on the matter by way of his quote in a New Yorker interview, “We don’t want people twiddling their goatees over our stuff,” exactly what I imagine Lin was doing as he contemplated some of the headier passages scattered throughout the book.
The chapter titles are modeled after the album’s, such as “Kid Aesthetics” and “Kid Acclaim” where Lin delves into those subjects, like the influence of Tristan Tzara’s instructions on crafting a Dadaist poem and the reaction, both negative and positive, the album received and still receives from critics.
Lin is at his best when his ideas are supported by interview with band members. He offers very good analysis demonstrating how their politics likely influenced their work, though Kid A is not what would be considered a traditional political album. He also details how their embrace of the day’s technology have helped put the band at the forefront of the paradigm shift the music business has been dealing with the past decade. However, there are passages where Lin gets so focused on subjects, like “music’s relationship with time,” where the reading becomes more homework than pleasure.
Marvin Lin’s Kid A works well as a wide-ranging look at music, art, and life as seen through Radiohead’s album for those who understand music can be more than just music.