• This Isn't Happening

  • Radiohead's "Kid A" and the Beginning of the 21st Century
  • By: Steven Hyden
  • Narrated by: Angelo Di Loreto
  • Length: 6 hrs and 12 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (153 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The making and meaning of Radiohead's groundbreaking, controversial, epoch-defining album, Kid A.

In 1999, as the end of an old century loomed, five musicians entered a recording studio in Paris without a deadline. Their band was widely recognized as the best and most forward-thinking in rock, a rarefied status granting them the time, money, and space to make a masterpiece. But Radiohead didn't want to make another rock record. Instead, they set out to create the future. 

For more than a year, they battled writer's block, inter-band disagreements, and crippling self-doubt. In the end, however, they produced an album that was not only a complete departure from their prior guitar-based rock sound, it was the sound of a new era, and embodied widespread changes catalyzed by emerging technologies just beginning to take hold of the culture. 

What they created was Kid A. At the time, Radiohead's fourth album divided critics. Some called it an instant classic; others, including the U.K. music magazine Melody Maker, deemed it "Tubby, ostentatious, self-congratulatory...whiny old rubbish". But two decades later, Kid A sounds like nothing less than an overture for the chaos and confusion of the 21st century.

Acclaimed rock critic Steven Hyden digs deep into the songs, history, legacy, and mystique of Kid A, outlining the album's pervasive influence and impact on culture, in time for its 20th anniversary. Deploying a mix of criticism, journalism, and personal memoir, Hyden skillfully revisits this enigmatic, alluring LP and investigates the many ways in which Kid A shaped and foreshadowed our world.

©2020 Steven Hyden (P)2020 Hachette Books

Critic Reviews

"Hyden provides a thorough primer on the sound of Kid A...But Hyden truly excels at illuminating the context of Kid A, from the prerelease expectations to the oft-rapturous reviews to the music's ultimate legacy." (The Ringer)

"This Isn't Happening is beyond a mere analysis of Kid A. It is a vast and contextual examination of the world, both inside and outside of Radiohead, leading up to and flowing away from the creation of Kid A and its impact on both the band and culture as a whole. Connecting the record to film, politics, current events, and the cultural morass that comprised the final moments of the '90s, Steven Hyden gleefully and with meticulous absurdity dissects, deconstructs, and decodes the first great artistic enigma of the new millennium." (Alex Ross Perry, writer/director of Her Smell, Listen Up Philip and The Color Wheel)

"This Isn't Happening not only is an excellent way to revisit Kid A but also a springboard for thinking about the shifting fortunes of rock music, the Internet, and the uneasy century we've been living in for the past 20 years." (Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend)

What listeners say about This Isn't Happening

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Interesting Listen

Overall I enjoyed it. It's true that he meanders a bit but afterall it is called "Kid A AND The Beginning of the 21st Century" so it's not supposed to just be about Kid A. It also helps to set the mood of the time period. Those of us of a certain age remember the "Hipster v. Nu Metal" Wars of the early 2000's so bringing it up enhances the experience. Sure 9/11's effect on media is overdone but it's overdone precisely because it had a huge impact.

My main criticism is that the author often comes off as overly cynical of the present, (especially the present internet), but maybe that's because I'm a couple of years younger than he is so it was there a little earlier in my life and I acclimated to it quicker. Still, overall I thought it was worth the listen as a big fan of this album.

2 people found this helpful

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Amazing read but…

My goosebumps had goosebumps getting immersed in this book. The adrenaline rushes that the author created by tapping into my memories of the absolutely mind-blowing shows I saw with my friends in the early 00’s brought me to the verge of tears on multiple occasions. But to find out basically at the end of the book that the author never saw a single show during these years and only finally got around to seeing Radiohead once their live performances had taken a dramatic tumble downhill cheapened the entire read for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and thought the author did a top notch job tapping into everything we the listeners were feeling at the time. But to have never seen it first person? And to wait until the very end of the book to tell the reader? Left a bad taste in my mouth.

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unlistenable mess

I bought this book excited to hear a deep dive into one or my favorite albums of all time. what I got instead was a wikipedia summary of a bunch of shit Kid A accomplished and nothing meaning or interesting. the only positive is the narrator does a great job

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True Love Reads

50% really good graduate level research paper/50%?decent opinion piece by a fan of the band. If you are a long-time Radiohead fan, you probably won’t learn anything new of any real import. It was worth listening to, I suppose.

1 person found this helpful

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It’s interesting history and perspectice

I really enjoy the author’s story and perspective through from the 80s to the 2010s and how the internet affected the world politically, sometimes the author gets a little preachy and sluggish with his opinions of the internet, especially in the middle. I enjoyed the book especially the beginning and the end was so cozy on how Radiohead and the rock genre changed overtime. its a good book and has soul in it

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Sucking a Lemon

I’m not sure what I was expecting. I love Radiohead. I’ve got Radiohead tattoos. I’m of the limited view that Kid A isn’t even a top 3 Radiohead record (that’d be Ok, Rainbows and Amnesiac. With enough drinks in me I could argue HTTT and Bends are better records also).

I was hoping that something here would change my mind. If anything I left more entrenched. It is perfectly serviceable nostalgia for those of us of a certain vintage, however. In that spirit it’s on point.

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Too much opinion, not enough fact.

This book just seems dull and boring. You would have more fun doing your own research and forming your own narrative.

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I Love Radiohead, but geesh

I thought the author went a little too far out in the deep end about this record. Injecting way too much politics and BS into a rock bands recording and relevance to social issues. I bought this because I love talking about music, and Radiohead is a great band, But all the political Rants made this a very irritating listen.

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Fantastic Read

This was a great view into the creation of Kid A! I loved the humor, stories and pre and post Kid A history provided!

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A Must Listen for Radiohead Fans

When I heard Steven Hyden interviewed about This Isn't Happening: Radiohead's "Kid A" and the Beginning of the 21st Century on the Sound Opinions podcast I couldn't wait to read or listen to it. Radiohead is my favorite band and I remember like it was yesterday when Kid A came out in 1999 and the first time I listened to it. It was so different, unlike anything I had heard up until that point, and such a departure from Radiohead's prior albums. Radiohead was re-inventing itself and rock music as well. It blew my mind. I remember reading reviews rating it a terrible album and some hailing it as a masterpiece. It divided critics and fans alike.

Steven Hyden is a Radiohead fanatic, as you would expect a person to be to write a six-hour / 256-page book centered around a single album in a band's canon. This is a very deep dive in to the album, song by song, as well as a deep dive in to Radiohead's catalog, especially the albums which followed Kid A, particularly Amnesiac which I've heard folks refer to as "Kid B" as it was recorded in the same session. Hyden also spends time giving background on each of the five bandmembers and explains why the work so good together and have been such a cohesive unit for thirty-five years. In short, this book is all things Radiohead, and as a fellow fanatic I loved this.

Hyden also describes how Kid A fit in to the context of its time, the end of the 20th century, when we had just faced down Y2K and dealt with a contested US election, and also the influence it had on other artists and music as a whole. He made some neat compare/contrasts with other artists such as the Strokes (who were bringing back leather jacket rock-and-roll at the time) and Beck (although he takes a lame shot at Beck's The Information), and talks about how Kid A influenced Cameron Crowe while he was making Vanilla Sky. He really brings you back to 2000, good and bad.

There were some negatives for me. I think he does go overboard a bit when he starts talking about 9/11 and the oncoming explosion of the internet and all the good and bad that brought us. I don't see how some of these events related in any way to an album. His comparisons to George Bush and Donald Trump's presidencies didn't age well (this was written before 2020).

Overall, this was really good and I think any fan of Radiohead would enjoy this. If you are not a fan of Radiohead you might find it interesting but it might be too much of a deep dive for you.

Favorite quote: "I can't remember the last time I played Kid A because I never stopped playing Kid A."

Personal notes. I finally got to see Radiohead in concert in Chicago in 2018 I couldn't wait to see how they would play some of the Kid A songs, especially the title track, in a live setting. It was fantastic, an unforgettable experience. I decided to make the trip to Chicago as Radiohead is particular of the cities they play, they have to meet certain "green" criteria apparently, and Minneapolis hasn't been on their docket since 1997. I didn't know if I'd ever get the chance to see them again so I decided to gas up the car and head down I-94 to Chicago.

I remember listening to Kid A while driving somewhere with my youngest son in the back of the car in his booster seat. When the title track came on he asked me with a confused look on his face, "what is this?" I responded that this music was found inside an alien spaceship which had crashed and he said, "oh, OK", and turned back to resume watching the world go by out the window. It's not hard to imagine this album being otherworldly, I think that's why I liked it so much then and continue to spin listen to it digitally today.

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  • C. Simmonds
  • 02-05-22

A good listen

Enjoyed the book. Will have to go back through it to take more out. Only issue I had was it sounded like it was read by Rod Serling and we were about to go into The Twilight Zone.... I kept waiting ....maybe I'm in it.. feels like it actually

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  • Stephen O
  • 12-19-21

a great listen despite a well known story !!!

i thought I'd listen this to wile away the long , painful hours at work and I'm actaully quite surprised at how much I really enjoyed this . Of course I am a Radiohead fan and even though I knew most of the stories behind kidS's creation & it's reception at the time ( I can recall the whole maddness that ensued at the time , it was quite bonkers ) it is still a very well threaded together story that I imagine most if not all fans will enjoy .... there was a little bit of Suede bashing along with their 'dog man star' album wich seemed a little .... I don't know .... at odds with Radiohead and KidA. It was just a bit of an random moment . I can't even remember the context this all happened in and couldn't disagree more , 'dog man star' is an amazing piece of work!!! .... but that aside a really captivating and well researched book . bravo 👏👏👏👏

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  • dan182
  • 08-14-21

excellent read/listen for Radiohead fans

this is a seriously deep dive and analysis of my favourite Radiohead album, Kid A. highly recommended for fans of Radiohead in general.

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  • Brendan, London
  • 04-28-21

Tiring

Sounds like it’s been written by an over-excited 12 year old fan. The over dramatised delivery doesn’t help. ‘Thom gets on train! Tom goes back on the train! It’s a nervous breakdown! It’s unbelievable!’ type thing. Tiring.

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  • TheZohan
  • 04-26-21

Not a Kid A fan - loved this book

A really interesting look into Radiohead and their influences on the world and vice versea

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-25-21

Brilliant.

This is a very well-written account of not only the way in which ‘Kid A’ came to be, but also the broader musical landscape at the time of its creation.

I was too young to experience the release of ‘Kid A’, and have never been a particularly avid Radiohead fan; but the contextual references to other artists such as Aphex Twin, U2, Linkin Park, Brian Eno and many others really help to illustrate how experimental Radiohead were in the creation of this album in relation to their peers, and also in relation to their prior material.

The narrator also does an amazing job!

Cannot recommend enough! :)

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  • Sam Hodgson
  • 01-06-22

KID A and its importance as a Zeitgeist

While I live in Australia and discovered the magic of Radiohead in my high school years of the late 2000s, Steven Hyden presents to use in this half review half personal story of how Radiohead's (by "pop"/conventional standards) avant-garde masterpiece KID A became the zeitgeist of the 2000s, with particular reference to the United States.
Steven goes into the many different mythos that surround KID A, from how another reviewer felt the album was an eerie prediction to 9/11, to how the album painted a picture of what life was to be decades before it has become more than modern place today.

He also delves into the history of Radiohead so that newcomers will get an idea of the band.
Though despite being about KID A, there are many callbacks to the song Radiohead are known for outside of the bands fanbase, Creep. Which can be a little confusing considering the book's focus is on KID A rather than their "one hit wonder". Throughout the first chapters too seems Steven can't help but bring up a lot of times either his comparisons or other reviews comparisons of Radiohead's Pablo Honey tracks and U2, which I find more or less distracting as even in Pablo Honey, Radiohead didn't even sound close to what U2 were trying to be in the 90s or before. U2 were trying to be Midnight Oil anyway.

But the story Steven tells us is very interesting to me as it's like him telling me from one fan to another his experiences with this album and what it mean to him and other Americans as it became a Zeitgeist of post-9/11 America. It is interesting to get that comparison as KID A may have played a different role in 2000s Australia, in the time period that I grew up in.

Angelo Di Loreto's narration of the book really feel like I'm listening to a reviewer talk about the albums importance, though Angelo at times does make Stevens words at times sound very snarky with a higher than though attitude, like as if its a snobbishness on why this album is better than we think. But I can imagine this wasn't Angelo's intention, it must just be his narration style.

If you're a huge fan of Radiohead like I am I recommend this book, really gives you a more broad idea on how KID A, one of the biggest surprised in music history became of the most important albums in the medium of music.