This isn’t a review. There are already lots of great reviews of Kid A. There’s nothing much of value I can add to the conversation; the album is a Laocoön. This piece is instead a meditation, or a meditative story, on an experience of the album.
A few nights ago I was restless, as lonely people are restless. I’m not being dramatic. All my roommates had left, and I was looking at a solitary week. Also, I had avoided going to the gym that day out of mere laziness. I felt guilty and unable to concentrate. I sat around watching TV, not motivated to do much. I was in a Funk. It’s a mood I recognize.
I did the only thing that I know can cure me of such an especially Deep Funk. I grabbed my keys and MP3 player and walked out the door. I dialed in Radiohead’s Kid A, and stalked dramatically around campus to Thom Yorke’s cooing. I began by walking instinctively towards my class on the other side of the school, but made a detour towards the woodsy Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden.
There’s something about Los Angeles’s warmth at night. Its cloudlessness and its starlessness. The campus’s incessant ficus obsession, its statues and busts, its red brick. Electric lighting in an empty garden. It feels beautifully contrived, like a movie. Enter melodrama, and you experience it as an actor. Kid A is the soundtrack.
I left my door to the muffled buzz of “Everything in its Right Place”. I hear in it a formless fear and strained optimism, an anticipation of what will follow. I listened to it as I entered the dark and silent grounds, crossing by construction zones and athletic fields. The unsettling title track plays as I continue my trek.
Those buildings leviathan. Powell Library is a glacier, and Royce Hall reaches heavenwards to betrays its inspiration of form. Both are modelled after a cathedral in Italy. “The National Anthem” plays in their Catholic presence. Its gradual decline into a loud chaos and cacophony feels righteous here.
I entered the garden from the south while the lyrics of “How to Disappear Completely” described an anxious man and his escapism. I wandered through the garden, losing myself in the sonorities, surrounded as I was by art I did not understand. These sculptures are all angles and industry, steel and concrete contemporary figures which symbolize nothing, explicitly.
“Treefingers” passes slowly by as I lay on the border of a fountain. I was watching reflections. Each yellow sodium light above was mirrored and broken into pieces which swarmed like fireflies. I enjoyed a song’s length of absolute respite from demanding semiotics. The track sounds like a recording of a busy intersection slowed down a thousand times. Sirens stretch and thin over time, as if gradually moving away.
I skipped past the tracks “Optimistic” and “In Limbo” and arrived at “Idioteque”. As Thom Yorke lamented consumer culture (or something) to a sick beat, I wondered what I was doing. I had lots of work to do, and endless studying after that. I simply couldn’t afford to take the evening off.
And it came to me. It wasn’t self-pity, or at least I don’t think it was. Nor was it entirely excess energy due to not exercising. It was more like a bout of honesty. It was obvious, but I had ignored and forgotten about it. I had isolated myself from everyone I cared about, and there was only one person in that entire city whom I loved.
I haven’t seen her in a while.
“Morning Bell” is about a divorce.
“Motion Picture Soundtrack” is both a love song and a farewell. It is a tired, defeated derision of how I was told things were supposed to work out.
The album over, I walked home in silence.