Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.
In this series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.
Joel, Mid City – Kid A by Radiohead
Dear Kid A,
It’s been a while. The majority of my life actually, since you first spoke to me out of my classmate’s shitty PC speakers. It was Idioteque. And I hated you.
You were icy. You were distant. You didn’t seem to give a fuck about me listening at all. Yet in the sunset of my youth as I sit and reflect on all the musical loves, past and present, and who has had the biggest impact on me, here you are still. Sure, there have been more momentous teenage occasions with bigger soundtracks; more recent jams that pump my blood electric at 160; more obscure choices that would make me seem musically hipper than I really am. But the evidence is too compelling. On pure longevity of impact I can’t go past you, Kid A.
I know, I know – I’ve been through a few. I’ve even been besotted by your sisters (which I know you think is gross). The Bends was my grade-school crush, teaching me it was possible to make music loud and tough yet still beautiful, fragile, moving. I went steady with Ok Computer. I thought we’d be together forever. She stepped me up to spacey ‘adult’ sounds and moody alienation (albeit totally unnecessary for a middle-class white kid in the Sunshine State).
But then you came along and changed everything. Wanna know why? Because even though you were cold and strange and totally disinterested in my desperate need for a chorus, you were and still are one bad-assed, uncompromised individual. Yes, National Anthem’s horn section is a lift from Bitches Brew. Yes, most of the electronic motifs were done a billion times before (and better?) throughout the Warp catalogue. And yes, as ever, Thom Yorke makes nonsense lyrics sound real damn important and deep when I have a not-so-sneaking suspicion he wrote most of them in 8 minutes. But you clearly just didn’t give a fuck. You shed almost all guitars for keys; you essentially relegated drummer Phil Selway to going on coffee runs for the whole session; you even include tracks that barely have any chords let alone vocals.
And here’s the kicker: Your refusal to try to please me left me wanting you more. And I’ve wanted more ever since. On every plane take-off, every long drive, every article I write for Music Feeds about my favourite album. You’ll be there. While your sisters fade as once-upon-a-timers, you remain fresh, engaging and whole as a piece of work. That coldness I felt on first listen has been your key to endurance. It keeps me listening, trying to understand.
My own music sounds nothing like you (and I wouldn’t even try if I could). But I keep close to me the possibilities you showed possible, the bravery you exhibited, the depth of creative field unfurled in my head. Maybe your parents knew you could get away anything after Ok Computer… maybe they were just high. Regardless yours is a set of songs that barbs deeper into me with age. You struck that beautiful balance of enchantment and inaccessibility.
I often wonder what sort of person I’d be if I’d fallen for some other form of music. What if Slippery When Wet was the most pivotal album in my formative years? Or Aqua’s Aquarium? What a scary, scary thought. Because I’m only now beginning to see where
you’ve led me.
Mid City continue their ‘Old Habits’ tour in Sydney tomorrow. Head here for all upcoming tour dates.