Radiohead: OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997-2017 evaluation
N 1996, at some stage in periods for their third album, Radiohead recorded music known as Lift. Like a lot of their new material, it had first been completed throughout a disastrous American tour that same 12 months, assisting Alanis Morissette. But not like the other new songs Radiohead had played, Lift had long gone down nicely. Listening to it on the twentieth-anniversary reissue of OK Computer, you may see why: it’s miles blessed with a massive, air-punch-inducing chorus. The issue is, Lift is on the second disc, the only one full of B-sides and outtakes. Knowing they’d like a big, self-glaring hit on their fingers, Radiohead intentionally left it off the album they have been making.
Such become the curious, peevish atmosphere wherein OK Computer became created. Since its launch, it has been held up as a sport-changing kingdom-of-the-international address, a critique of globalization and consumerism. An album created in a global where the net had but to take off eerily prefigured alienation and statistics overload issues. Everybody might begin discussing the minute it did. But its origins are substantially extra prosaic: OK Computer feels like a response to the band’s experience of promoting its predecessor, 1995’s The Bends. Indeed, it can be history’s most brilliantly disguised instance of a vintage musical lifestyle: the successful rock band moaning approximately the everyday commercial enterprise of being in a successful rock band. For all of the camouflage – the lyrics are elliptical sufficient to scrolling via the diverse interpretations online a depend on days in place of hours – its roots preserve showing via.
The commencing of Let Down reads suspiciously like a retelling of the Morissette guide-slot imbroglio. The ingratiating satisfied-handing depicted in Electioneering; the yearning for suburban normality on No Surprises; the fretful obsession with travel, underlined using the sound of an airport tannoy on B-aspect A Reminder; the solid of ghastly, coke-fuelled characters on Karma Police and Paranoid Android: it all feels like the manufactured from months spent traipsing around the Midwest. Even the lyrical tone of overheated chippiness (“We hope you choke”; “When I am king you will be first in opposition to the wall”) appears to speak of limitless hours cooped up on an excursion bus, without end selecting matters over to your thoughts.
The fact that OK Computer keeps sensing considerably more than rock stars moaning about being rock stars has a lot to do with the track as Yorke’s lyrical potential to turn his non-public bugbears into something extra regularly occurring. OK, the Computer becomes thick with memorable tunes, and some songs as straightforwardly stunning as Lift slipped through the net, no longer least Let-Down. But in an era, while their peers had been striving for simple mass attraction, OK Computer become dense and clotted and experimental. Stuffed with knotty guitar riffs, shifts in pace, clashing time signatures, bursts of fuzzy electronics, percussive clatter, and Mellotron strings, its sound appears to be as much about records overload as its lyrics.
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There’s a lot taking place at any given point: even the robotic-voiced interlude Fitter Happier arrives augmented with studio chatter, strings, comments, and a mournful piano backing that sounds now not in contrast to Sonic Youth’s Providence. Indeed, for all that it regarded clean and brainy in the enamel of Britpop’s lowest-common-denominator pandering, OK Computer wasn’t without precedent. You can pay attention to the Pixies in Electioneering’s distorted white-knuckle din. While Radiohead had been apparently irked through being defined as prog rock, whilst confronted by, say, Paranoid Android – six and a half mins lengthy, in 4 episodic components with a segment in 7/eight time and a identify stimulated by a sci-fi novel, which began existence clocking in at greater than 14 mins, replete with a lengthy Pink-Floyd-rescue organ solo – the preference to name a spade a spade becomes overwhelming.
Prog or not, it proved extremely influential, and no longer simply on Muse, who built an entire career on the instant 2min 45sec into Paranoid Android, whilst the distorted guitar riff kicks in. It says something about the duration of the shadow OK Computer cast over next rock that one music from the reissue’s bonus disc, I Promise, has been playlisted on Radio 2 and 6Music as if it were a new single; twenty years antique, it doesn’t sound out of place amid the latest releases by way of Grizzly Bear, Alvvays, and the National.
But, at least, to begin with, they have an effect on OK Computer had become barely extraordinary from the one its makers may have was hoping for. Subsequent artists alighted not on its experimentation, but its doleful don’t-get-your-hopes-up tone; the octave leaps in Thom Yorke’s vocals, in place of his elliptical, political lyrics; now not the thrillingly chaotic sound of Electioneering, but the mid-tempo piano-led chug of No Surprises. Worse, they combined these with the music you observed Radiohead noticed as OK Computer’s diametric contrary, the plodding, headscarf-waving, Hey-Jude-aping balladry of oases Don’t Look Back in Anger – right here become the cocktail that gave the world Coldplay, Keane, even James Blunt. What no one, consisting of Radiohead, did become make any other album that genuinely sounds like OK Computer. Which is some other purpose why it doesn’t appear to have dated at all?