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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

"If there was ever an album that deserves a book-length exegesis, it's Kid A, and there's no one better than Steven Hyden to unpack its mythologies and prophecies, and the extraordinary way it appeared to set the stage for the century that followed. This Isn't Happening is a smart, riveting, and dynamic history of a watershed moment for both music and the world." (Amanda Petrusich, author of Do Not Sell at Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World's Rarest 78rpm Records)

"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.

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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.

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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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Fantastic

Loved the book. The narration is great. Lots of great Radiohead info and stories of other bands and stuff from around the release of Kid a in 2000.

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no

This book is good for about the first 2.5 hours. Then it just meanders like a very bad thesis paper. At one point he spends about 30 minutes talking about Linkin Park? Starts rambling about Stanley Kubrick? It was very odd and not as good as I had hoped it would be. I wouldn't really recommend it.

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Good book; horrible narration

Read the book, don't listen to it. The narrator is horrible. His voice is hard to listen to; his speed modulates so you have to adjust your playback speed; his voice doesn't fit the tone of the book. Publisher also added music throughout, which is just distracting. Overall terrible performance and production. Good content, though.

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Excellent trip back through time!

The title is a bit mis-leading. This is as much a history of Radiohead from Pablo Honey through current times as it is about "Kid A", as well as their many solo projects. You also have to remember that the author is a critic by vocation as opposed to a historian so a lot of the book is a reflection of his likes (and dislikes) which sometimes gets in the way of the story-telling. It is also important that he points out that his fascination with "Kid A" can be seen as more than a little over the top, which can accurately describe Radiohead fans in a nutshell. Clearly he has a sense of humor about himself.

Another fascinating aspect is when he launches into tangents about other bands popular at the beginning of the century: Oasis, The Strokes, Linkin Park, Brain Eno. There is a LOT of U2 in this book. He deems it important that you know about the other acts sharing the spotlight (and even stealing it from) Radiohead which I found an added plus.

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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! :)