This Isn't Happening: Radiohead's Kid A and the Beginning of the 21st Century

This Isn't Happening: Radiohead's Kid A and the Beginning of the 21st Century



The Pequod Review:

Steven Hyden's short book This Isn't Happening argues that Radiohead's classic 2000 album Kid A embodied a fundamental shift in the post-2000 American cultural landscape. As Hyden puts it:

So much of what would come to define the early years of the twenty-first century — 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the global economic meltdown, extreme political polarization, the proliferation of social media — hadn't happened yet when Kid A was released...

Kid A embodied how things would eventually come to feel, look, and sound. The mood of ubiquitous dread and digital remove that the music evokes; the non-sequitur lyrics that double as status updates ("yesterday I work up sucking a lemon"; "I'm not here, this isn't happening"; "the best you can is good enough"); and the overwhelming feeling that technology has interconnected all of our lives while cutting us off from our own humanity. 

Hyden exaggerates his argument for sure — no one album is that important and many of these shifts were already occurring before Kid A, as was apparent from almost any 1990s Warp Records release. But he is a consistently insightful guide to the band and the overall independent/alternative music scene. And even his musical digressions (whether on Elvis Costello's Blood & Chocolate or U2's experimental album Zooropa, or even Linkin Park) are intelligent and enthusiastic. This is a very good cultural history from someone who lived through the era and knows it well.