At its heart, Kid A is wracked by a dilemma that has always haunted champions of "progressive rock," from honorable practitioners like Yes and Pink Floyd to frauds like Jethro Tull and Yes: an inability to reconcile their fear of modernity with their love of gadgetry. In order to preserve Old World values (grandeur, the intrinsic worth of the romantic individual), those musicians must dabble with the very electrical gewgaws that (they warn) threaten to impose an impersonal technocratic future of plebian mediocrity upon us all.
The arid results of Kid A pose a pressing question: Could the most dystopian future Yorke fears possibly be any more joyless than this warning of its looming arrival? It never seems to occur to Yorke that human individuality might be best defended by amassing wit and humor and affection and rhythm and all the aspects of character we'd like to preserve. It seemingly hasn't occurred to a majority of the record buyers in this country, either. How often does a critic's band debut at No. 1 in Billboard, as Radiohead did last week? Oh well, I guess every generation gets the Human League it deserves. But when the robots finally do take over, I hope it doesn't fall to this whining twit to make the case for the continuation of my species.