It’s quite exhilirating to once again listen to Radiohead’s groundbreaking Kid A and Amnesiac albums, 20 years later. That those studio sessions were always spoke of as a time of great stress and experimentation, a band shedding it’s past self for something more stark and dense, is incredible when you hear Thom Yorke and Stanley Donwood speak of the fruitful time in the studio making the artwork that would accomodate the albums. That part, especially hearing them now, seems like two artists sharing a unique and jarring vision at the turn of the century. And the artwork matches the brilliance of the music.
This week in London during Frieze Week, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke teamed with Christie’s to present How to Disappear Completely, a selection paintings at auction and drawings from the two made during the recording sessions for Kid A and Amnesiac. Some of the works are recognizable from that era, a few of the characters showing up in the packaging for albums, but it’s the detailing and darkness that Donwood conjures in the canvases that is wonderful to see in person. But it is the simple ballpoint pen drawings that standout here, works that Donwood and Yorke created together, and seem to stem from a noirish sense of humour and almost R. Crumb style comic flare. They are telling of that early 21st century mood, an almost hyper-awareness of technology and globalism, of a world caving in on itself.
The music has not only stood the test of time, but defined a direction of music for 20 years. The art remains just as compelling. —Evan Pricco