The National Anthem (4:57)

Cover of Kid A

From Kid A and 116 other releases

“The National Anthem” is a song by the band Radiohead, the third track from the album Kid A (2000). The song is moored to a repetitive bassline, has a processed electronic production, and develops in a direction influenced by jazz.
In the album recording, the bass is played by lead singer Thom Yorke, who wrote the riff at age 16. The song is thought to have been previously attempted at recording sessions in 1994 and 1997, but according to Colin Greenwood, the band decided it was “too good to use it as a b-side for OK Computer singles”.

The free jazz-style brass section featured in this song creates a soundscape of chaos, and has been described as “a brass band marching into a brick wall” by one reviewer. In the recording sessions, band members Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood conducted the session musicians as best they could, though Yorke lacks formal musical training, telling them to ‘go crazy’ with their instruments as if they were caught in a traffic jam. It should be noted that although the recording sounds chaotic, each instrument is soloing to the riff.
The jazz style arrangement was apparently influenced by Charles Mingus, one of Thom’s favorite composers, while the song also features an Ondes Martenot, played by Jonny Greenwood. That early electronic instrument was picked up by Jonny for several songs on Kid A and subsequent albums, inspired by the music of Olivier Messiaen which makes much use of it. Some also found “The National Anthem” reminiscent of the contemporary work of fellow UK bands Primal Scream and Spiritualized, with whom Radiohead had toured in 1998.

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Albums featuring this track (117)

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