Radiohead, singing children and synthesizers

Radiohead, singing children and synthesizers

OK KID: Worst of all albums, end of all culture

 By Benjamin Smith

As the proud father of a precocious 10-year-old, I feel I have the experience and wisdom to proclaim, with impunity, that children are terrible. Seriously, they ruin everything. Children piss on your shoes, eat all the cupcakes, vomit at operas. Children ruin sex. Now, adding insult to injury, children have helped destroy one of Britain’s best bands.

The OK KID tragedy apparently started this spring, after Radiohead’s Thom Yorke (father of two) woke from a nightmare. “Had me a vision,” Yorke told the Financial Times. “Dreamt I lived in a future where people ate dirt and no one knew me music anymore – because they had all been wee when me albums were made. I woke up screaming. Then it hit me: kids need exposure to artistic genius just as much as they need milk and biscuits. So I called the lads and said: We’re doing OK KID. By the children, for the children.” Thus inspired, Radiohead and their longtime producer Nigel Godrich headed to the studio this August with London’s Little Chums children’s choir to re-record selections from the band’s canon. Giving a supposed thrill to the sessions, the Little Chums were backed by the band members themselves on keyboards, “strange sounds,” percussion and French horn. (“I love me horn,” said Yorke.) Three weeks later, OK KID – eleven covers and two originals – was complete.

Yorke: “It’s brilliant. Bloody brilliant. Better than biscuits.”

Alas, OK KID is the antithesis of brilliant, and far worse than the very worst of biscuits. Oxford’s finest have launched a Kidz Bop Hindenburg possibly fueled by greed, piloted by madness and filled with kids singing songs about, well, greed and madness. Behold the opening track, a cover of “We Suck Young Blood” from 2003’s Hail To The Thief. Over blasts of out-of-tune French horn, the Little Chums weakly warble: “Are you sweet? Are you fresh? Are you strung up by the wrists? We want the young blood.” This shit should be illegal. Next is “Myxomatosis,” a song that references a rabbit disease. “The mongrel cat came home,” some Elmo sound-alike screeches, “holding half a head.” In the background a circus organ suffers a mid-life crisis.

Let me be clear here: I believe it’s fantastic, even necessary, to expose children to great music. Countless other people do, too; in 2006, Rockabye Baby! released lullaby renditions of Radiohead, a soothing (if occasionally eerie or sad) collection of instrumental covers. Obviously, that album did not soothe Yorke’s own fears about future legacy and acclaim – and the unbelievable truth is that the Kidz Bop approach does sell product. But Christ, at what price?

Perhaps that is a moot point, because I predict that no one will buy OK KID. First of all, as I mentioned before, children ruin everything. I bet the Little Chums are adorable, yet even a good children’s choir can be dreadful. Who, for example, is that munchkin with marbles in his mouth on “Paranoid Android”? I don’t think he sings in English. (Only the words “The panic, the vomit” stand out. Cheers, mate.) And it’s fairly uncomfortable to hear a five-year-old British girl croon, “But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo.” What sane parent would actually play OK KID for kids? I wouldn’t subject terrorists to it. More importantly, what kids would enjoy it? Secondly, the selections are abysmal. Why Radiohead decided to re-record three songs from Hail To The Thief is beyond logic. Have you secretly suspected that Hail was a bomb? Rest assured, OK KID evaporates all doubt. There is also the striking detail that the re-recorded music itself seems chaotic without reason or purpose. (Jabbing a Moog does not equal mystery.) The Rolling Stones showed greater vitality when they made 1986’s Dirty Work, an album so bad that it has caused death. Is it impossible for Yorke, the band’s leader and seer, to act like a real musician, let alone like a real human? Has he, in fact, completely disappeared up his own ass? Why, yes. Yes he has. Check out the chorus from new track “Yoko Go Loko”: “Czar czar of commodity/Dead worm, head turn/Do the shoe/I will slice you up, you.” Hideous.

However, the truly hideous aspect of this record is the damage done to Radiohead’s sterling reputation. Years spent leading the charge toward the future has led to “strange sounds” and 13 songs sung poorly by the goddamn Little Chums. OK KID encapsulates what is vile about this decaying world. Beauty becomes shit for sale. Surely Yorke and Co. are self-aware? Surely they understand this is rubbish? The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if OK KID was created not to gain younger fans, but to nuke unrealistic expectations; to nuke the Radiohead myth. Above all else, OK KID parts the curtain of hype to expose what Radiohead really is: five fucking miserable bastards. With clay feet. Standing for nothing. With nothing new to say. Gone is an age of idols and heroes, artists and visionaries. Everything we knew was wrong. OK KID is the tolling of culture’s death bell, and I say, “let it ring.” We deserve it. We deserve it for being fooled by false genius. We deserve it for valuing pompous artifice. We deserve it for being children ourselves. We deserve it.

Reach DCP freelance writer Benjamin Smith at BenjaminSmith@DaytonCityPaper.com


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