Radiohead – OK Computer
Record Label: Capitol Records
Release Date: May 21st 1997
I’m a firm believer in the idea that music is quite subjective, meaning that there are not any “bad” artists, but only good ones, because everyone is going to like different things, so everything is good to someone. On the flipside of that, there are things I don’t like, but I usually pay those things no mind, unless it’s Blood On The Dance Floor, then that’s just a horrible band that I see no appeal for. In all seriousness, though, I do also believe that music is objective sometimes, in the sense that most people can agree that a band like the Beatles have had a considerable influence on music, and they’re not an awful band. Even if you don’t enjoy them, respecting them is what most people typically do, unless you’re a musical snob/elitist who can’t handle others’ opinions. Another one of these kinds of bands is English alternative band Radiohead. A lot of people regard this band as being one of the best of the 20th century, yet I’ve never listened to them in my life. I’m not sure why, because I’m all for experimental, insane, off-the-wall music, especially in Radiohead’s vein. I’ve seen plenty of people herald them as being a great band, yet I just never was interested enough to listen to them. Well, a couple of weeks ago, I went down to the county below mine to pick up some new glasses that I got (there isn’t a glasses place in my city), and on the way back, I stopped at a Walmart that my mom and I passed to the eyeglasses place. We decided to go back since it didn’t take long for our glasses to be ready, and I was very curious, because I wanted to see what this Walmart had that mine didn’t. Every store is different, and they have different stuff, and I love the feeling of being excited about not knowing what you’re going to find. I found a few things that interested me, but something that stuck out was a copy of Radiohead’s 1997 record OK Computer. This is a record that I’ve heard great things about, so being very curious, I decided to pick it up, not knowing what to expect at all. And that is the best part of being a music fan. Sometimes you make the best discoveries, and this record is certainly one of them. I put the record into my iTunes, and it said it was 53 minutes, which put me off slightly, just because I’m not a big fan of lengthy records, unless they’re done very well. Thankfully, this record falls into the latter, because it is done very well. There’s a lot of variety, a lot of twists and turns among this record, and it’s done in such a way that means I can enjoy the record, but not be overwhelmed by everything that’s going on. There’s a lot, but not too much, which is a great thing.
And I think the insane amount of variety is the best part of this record. Well, at least, a very important aspect, anyway. This is also one of those records where everything just works together. Vocalist Thom Yorke has a really unique and absolutely fantastic voice, and his voice works very well with the accompanying music. Most of this record is rather “chill” and kind of ambient. There aren’t too many parts where the record gets loud and it’s ferocious. It’s not, but that’s the best part. It’s a very relaxed record, but it works to its advantage. The lyrics also seem to reflect the instrumentation of the music, because Yorke’s lyrics on here deal with loneliness, isolation, alienation, and consumerism among other things. The lyrics are definitely one huge reason why this record is so awesome. And Yorke’s delivery just absolutely astounds me as well. There’s a reason a lot of people “worship” this man, and I use that in quotes because that’s a bit of an overexaggeration, but nonetheless, he’s still well regarded in all of music, not only the genre he’s in. That’s another really interesting thing here – Radiohead transcend genres. They’re not an alternative band, a pop-punk band, an indie band, or anything else. While listening to this record, I couldn’t think of a single to put this under. That’s really rare with records nowadays, and even back then, this record was very different from the norm. That’s what they were going for, though. They wanted to be different from what was popular at the time, even if their record label didn’t think it would sell very much, but they were wrong. It’s now regarded as one of the band’s most popular records, for good reason. Now with all of that being said, let’s say “ok computer” and dive into this record, shall we?
The record starts off with “Airbag,” and it starts off with a really interesting guitar riff from guitarist Johnny Greenwood, and a nice drum riff from drummer Phil Selway. Finally, vocalist Thom Yorke comes through the speakers about 40 seconds into the song, and it was that moment I knew something amazing was about to happen. Well, by that, I mean the entire record was going to happen. This is a good opening song, because it’s very ambient and really experimental, as the whole record is. That’s how I’d really describe it – experimental, ambient, and just plain awesome. Since I’m a new fan of Radiohead, this is the first record that I really got to listen to by them. About four minutes in, the song morphs into an ambient instrumental, which leads into second track, and my personal favorite “Paranoid Android.” Yorke’s vocals are angelic in this track, to be totally honest. In fact, his vocals are a huge part of why I enjoy this record, but that’s not the only thing I love about this record. The instrumentation is a huge part of why I love this record, but Yorke’s voice brings it all together. He’s got an incredible range, and he compliments the music itself. “Paranoid Android” is my favorite song on the record because it takes that I enjoy about this record and Radiohead in general, and ultimately, it’s easily the best track on the record, with “Karma Police” coming in at a close second. After third track, “Subterranean Homesick Alien,” which is a rather melodramatic and melancholy song, comes another favorite of mine on the record “Exit Music (For a Film).” The title suggests a closing track, but it’s not. This song is also rather melancholy, but most of the record truly is. Yorke’s vocals at the end of this song are some of the best that I’ve heard on the whole record.
After the rather forgettable track, “Let Down,” which isn’t really a let down, but more s just a mediocre track, which is surprising, because the last four have been great. This song is good, but it’s one of those songs that just doesn’t affect me. My biggest problem with it is that it’s five minutes, but it doesn’t have much variation or experimentation in it; for the lack of a better word, it’s a boring song. Thankfully, next track “Karma Police,” despite the really interesting title, is one of my favorite songs, which I mentioned earlier. This song is huge, expansive, spacious, and it’s really thanks to Thom Yorke’s vocals, which sound pretty, well, pretty, to be honest. I mentioned earlier that his vocals are a huge reason why I enjoy this record, but they complement the music itself. Aside from that, next song “Fitter Happier” is a really odd interlude, which has a robotic voice saying random things, and it’s pretty cool, but rather odd all at once. It’s another track that doesn’t do much for me, and that leads into eighth track “Electioneering,” which starts off with a really cool guitar riff that has a very memorable sound to it. This is one of the more “rock” songs on the record, and it’s also one of my favorites. Following that is “Climbing Up the Walls,” which is one of the eerier songs on the record, because Yorke’s vocals are very distorted, and the instrumentation itself is rather distorted. It’s a really “chill” song, to so speak, because it’s not very aggressive or loud, but it’s really cool.
The last few songs are arguably some of my lesser favorites on the record, because they really don’t stand out to me. While the first few songs really stuck out to me, these few don’t, meaning “No Surprises,” “Lucky,” and closing track, “The Tourist.” “No Surprises” reminds me of “Let Down,” in the sense that it’s rather stripped own, and very minimalist. It doesn’t do anything or go anywhere, which is the same thing that plagues eleventh track “Lucky.” Maybe that’s why I can’t remember them, because they do go anywhere. However, “Lucky” does have a really cool guitar solo towards the end. Finally, “The Tourist” is a really nice track, albeit if it’s rather slow. That’s what makes it a nice ending, though; it’s rather different from “Airbag,” which was loud, and kicked off the record with a bang. While this record is very experimental, and very ambient, it’s also very cohesive. It’s a record that came out at a very interesting time, because it was very different from popular music at the time, so this really paved the way for the band, and for alternative music as a whole. Lyrically, vocally, instrumentally, and influentially, this record is a force to be reckoned with. It’s rather funny, because the record is called “OK Computer” and this record came out in the late 90s, kind of right before computers became as huge as they are, or rather, before the Information Age. So, in a way, it feels like Yorke was foreshadowing life as we know it with his lyrics. Regardless, this record is a classic, and I’m merely just getting into the band, so this is a great to start off with.
Is this a running joke in your threads that you buy albums from Target and Wallmart, press play and write a review? Or do you actually do that. It just seems like most of your reviews feature some part about how your mom drove you to Target. Genuinely interested to know.
Anyways, great album, of course. One of my very favourites.
And I actually agree that "Let Down" is overrated. "Lucky" is just amazing though.