Considering that they actually released a movie about how painful it is to be a critically acclaimed rock band, you had to expect the next Radiohead record to be a barbed retort to drooling adulation. No one could have predicted it would sound like this, though.
The quintet's response to OK Computer has been to eliminate everything they succeeded with -- big guitars, proper songs and soaring choruses -- and replace it with dissonant interludes, squealing brass orchestras and a wheezing pump organ. A ballsy move, but is it any good? For the most part, yes. Kid A (out Tuesday) is beautifully recorded and mixed, with an emphasis on sounds rather than songs, and freedom given to mess with finished products. Drums stutter and vocals gurgle. Familiar Radiohead moments frequently pop up, but they're often scrambled beyond recognition.
It's not perfect. For all the layers, some pieces don't sound quite finished, and Kid A is occasionally undone by questionable sequencing and a middle bit that doesn't do the astonishing beginning and ending justice. Still, for a band of their size, or indeed of any size, Radiohead have taken a tremendous leap left. Whatever you think of the results, that's worth plenty.