How the British rock band Radiohead subverts the idea of the concept album in order to articulate themes of alienation and anti-capitalism is the focus of Marianne Tatom Letts’s analysis of Kid A and Amnesiac. These experimental albums marked a departure from the band’s standard guitar-driven base layered with complex production effects. Considering the albums in the context of the band’s earlier releases, Letts explores the motivations behind this change. She places the two albums within the concept-album/progressive-rock tradition and shows how both resist that tradition. Unlike most critics of Radiohead, who focus on the band’s lyrics, videos, sociological importance, or audience reception, Letts focuses on the music itself. She investigates Radiohead’s ambivalence toward its own success, as manifested in the vanishing subject of Kid A on these two albums.
Note on Musical Examples
2. Back to Save the Universe: The Reception of OK Computer and Kid A
3. Everything in Its Right Place: Musical Elements in Kid A
4. Cut the Kids in Half: The Second Death of Kid A
5. After Years of Waiting, Nothing Came: Amnesiac as Antidote
6. I Might Be Wrong: Amnesiac and Beyond
7. We Are the Dollars and Cents: Radiohead as Commodity
An objective yet provocative look at a challenging period in the work of one of rock's most adventurous bands.
author of Genesis and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
The book is well written and researched. Further, it builds on existing rock scholarship, especially thatof James Doheny, Tim Footman, Martin Clarke, Allan Moore and Anwar Ibrahim. . . . It adds to the growing field of rock scholarship and should make a fine addition to any library that boasts such a focus.
Music Reference Services Quarterly
This is the kind of text that could likely transform a college-level music theory course for the better, prompting discussions about everything from the structure of modern rock music to the sometimes conflicted triangular relationship between performers, media and the masses. And, needless to say, it's required reading for Radiohead cultists. 2/8/2011
Marianne Tatom Letts's excellent new book returns to the origins of the band's subversive marketing strategies . . . Letts's smart, in-depth account reveals as much about Radiohead's ambivalent and conflicted relationship with popular culture and contemporary capitalism as it does about their musical appeal. 8/3/2011