It was my final year of school and I was just starting to realise that you actually had to work in order to get A levels when a friend pushed a certain CD into my hands. It had a crappy little inlay made in Word with a grim little font but that didn’t really matter as it contained eight tracks from ‘Kid A’ which he had downloaded from the internet. We were late adopters of the internet, my family. We’d only just got a computer and it was dial-up all the way. The aforementioned friend – Chris, should he happen to ever read this – was quite the opposite and had been pissing around on the net for years prior to this and this was the first time it had ever impacted upon me. He told me that it wasn’t what I might be expecting and that he didn’t really know what he thought of it. Sounded interesting enough to me.
I remember playing it through a shitty little green Alba CD/cassette player at school and being quite taken aback. I instantly loved ‘Idioteque’ and kept playing ‘Everything In Its Right Place’, trying to decide if that nagging sensation was like or annoyance. A few of the tracks had little messages embedded and little strategic clicks. Where the hell he’d got the songs from, I didn’t know but it was pretty clear that it was all a little dodgy. Still, hearing that music upfront was an absolute joy and it’s one of the last times I can remember an enormous ‘event’ album appearing without any serious internet clamour preceding it.
As a result, the finished album was largely familiar to me – annoying message and clicks removed – and for a little while I played little else. ‘Optimistic’ and ‘The National Anthem’ are glorious beasts, while ‘Morning Bell’ and ‘Motion Picture Soundtrack’ are some of the finest, glacially atmospheric pieces they’ve ever released. I could offer a quick review of the album, but it’s all been said before. Suffice to say, it meant a lot then and means a lot now.
(I’ve mentioned the glorious 2001 Later Special before, but if you’ve still not seen – or even bits of it on the recent deluxe editions of ‘Kid A’ and ‘Amnesiac’ – you can see pretty much all of it in high quality here.)