on 29 March 2014
So I'm one of those suckers who is buying vinyl and at these prices no wonder my eyes water constantly. However in this case OK Computer is the first piece of vinyl that I feel moved to review. It is pressed on 2 discs and, if your turntable is decent enough, it will simply amaze you. The quality is superb and gives a fresh experience to what is a familiar album. The percussion, dynamics and sense of space delights.
Also as a by product the album is obviously split into 4 chunks and these also work in a beautiful way. Take side 2, Exit Music - Let Down - Karma Police. Starting with a casually strummed guitar and cavernous voice and ending with a buzzing electric death cry the journey through those 3 songs is sublime. It has made me appreciate the music much more than the casual CD experience.
on 26 November 2015
I was 17 when I first heard OK Computer, and at first its greatness didn't hit me. I was a fan of the more simple pleasures and straight forward directness of Oasis, and Radiohead in comparison seemed lightweight and pretentious. The southern middle-class students versus the gruff northern everymen.
Then one night I listened to it on my headphones. All the interlocking textures suddenly jumped out at me; Thom Yorke's wonderfully melancholic falsetto; Jonny Greenwood's sublime guitar work; the soaring harmonies; the frosty soundscapes. I realised that OK Computer was a work of immense quality by a band who knew exactly what they wanted, and would not compromise in achieving it.
Its influences are clear; the White Album, Pet Sounds, Dark Side of the Moon, yet it also sounds nothing like them. It's beautiful and innovative, the antithesis of the derivative Britpop juggernaut that was engulfing Britain at the time of its 1997 release. The album has it all; highly accomplished musicianship, creative depth and complex lyrics, all arching around themes of alienation and modern malaise.
Radiohead's quest for musical development went even further after this release, incorporating electronica and the avant-garde on next album Kid A, but it is here on OK Computer that they truly reached their songwriting apex. The complex epic of 'Paranoid Android', conjoining at least three distinct sections; the lush dream pop of 'No Surprises'; the emotive depth of 'Karma Police'; the grand scale of closer 'The Tourist'.
OK Computer is simply an astonishing listen, and one I return to time and time again. The magnum opus of perhaps the most creative and influential band since the Beatles, and is without doubt my favourite album of all time.
on 25 July 2001
A friend of mine once said that Radiohead were the kind of band who it was easy to admire, and yet difficult to like. I always agreed, preferring the accessibility of bands like Oasis and The Stereophonics to the intensive coolie labour it could sometimes take to listen to Radiohead. Then, last summer, I went to see Radiohead play at Victoria Park in London. And I saw the light.
This album can ask a lot of the listener, but if you can really give into the music and just let it carry you off, you can become so consumed by these songs that you find yourself suddenly opening your eyes at the end of a track, blinking in surprise at the fact that you are actually back in the real world. They tear your soul open, and force you to confront those feelings for which you probably don't even have a name. Despair perhaps, numbness perhaps, but above all, the way it can sometimes feel just to be a human in the 20th Century.
It's hard to pick a stand out track (even the pretty much tune free "Fitter, Happier" makes for compelling listening), but "Exit Music (for a film)" is one of the most touching, fragile and beautiful songs you will ever hear. When you consider Thom Yorke wrote it as a soundtrack to the end of Romeo and Juliet, the lyrics become even more intense; "Today, we escape, we escape". "Don't lose your nerve. I can't do this - alone".
If you have ever felt alone, disenfranchised, pointless or depressed, this record will connect with you in a way you may have never thought possible. And that contact will make you feel better. Less alone. It makes you feel like there are other people out there who feel like this. It's a record which takes you on a journey through the darker parts of the soul. A record about how it feels to be human.
Oh, and it's very, very good (did I mention that?).
on 25 October 2013
I'll admit I liked Radiohead but I only knew the songs that appeared on the radio. OK Computer is often one of their more critically acclaimed albums and it's easy to see why. Stand out tracks are hard to choose as the album flows neatly into a complete package.
on 18 November 2015
Radiohead fans have an accumulated reputation for being silly faux-poetic hipsters who take themselves too seriously, and to be honest, we deserve that a little bit. So, just to quickly dispense with that and offer a non-hyperbolic, unpretentious, level-headed review:
Radiohead are a very talented group with a near-unique sound, even now, and OK Computer is arguably their most refined, well-rounded and cohesive album. Thom Yorke has a memorable and lovely voice that hits the highs without cracking and he manages to convey real emotional depth with it even while singing pretty vague and odd lyrics that (unless you like to read ten miles between the lines) aren't about much at all. Every song is meticulously put together and the whole thing sounds like a set of musicians who have worked with each other for a while, taking their time and doing their absolute best for the sake of the craft. There is no slack - no wasted instruments or filler tracks, no sense of padding. It's one of the few albums on which I don't feel the need to skip any songs.
The musical style occupies a niche; their particular mix of pretty piano melodies, raw guitar riffs, accoustic backing and engaged, dynamic drumming hasn't been entirely reproduced by anybody quite so well since, which is a pity but definitely makes this album indispensable. It never sounds as dreary and generic as the bulk of Brit Pop, keeping an enjoyable level of energy and creativity, while having enough heart and sensitivity to avoid sounding juvenile and thrashy. It never devolves into a tedious navel-gazing unplugged session or monotonous distortion-heavy rock. Radiohead blend many softer and harder elements that other bands can only produce individually, and that's what made them a hit; the key to this album's enduring likeability is its variety.
OK Computer was an instant classic that inspired a host of successive pop acts, but it had a certain sincerity and passion that those subsequent acts haven't quite nailed. It had the privilege of forging a subgenre; all similar work since has sounded less brave and explorative, because it exists in Radiohead's shadow. So if you've enjoyed any modern indie/Brit pop or light rock of the past twenty years and haven't heard it yet, you owe it to yourself to give it a go, because it's the apex of its genre.
on 3 May 2014
No. Not the Beatles, not Oasis or Led Zep. OK Computer by Radiohead is indeed the most compelling case for "best album ever status".
It is timeless, and haven't aged a bit since 1997. It's been MANY years since i last listened to it, and was shocked by how good and modern it still sounds. Unlike many bands befor and since,Radiohead created their own sound and atmosphere. This is a brilliant and varied album, with great tunes and a lot of heart.
on 23 November 2014
I was listening to this album today in the gym (yes seriously) and although it's music and it's lyrics are never far from mind, I was struck again with just how amazing this album is. It's so accomplished, so moving and so utterly timeless that it's the only album I'll ever need if I come to ever end up on on one of those so-called desert islands. Lot's of albums over the years get the classic status thrown at them but we all know that most of them have one or two filler tracks. OK Computer is that rare beast. A work of art which transends head and shoulders above anything else.
on 6 January 2004
i discovered the wonders of Radiohead when reading a certain magazines recent top 100 poll in which OK Computer was 2nd, The Bends 4th and Kid A 37th, or something like that. I had always had an impression of OK Computer as being a weird album of electronics and machines - this was prior to actually hearing any songs, a reader of this magazine had commented 'it is like floating down a river and being hit by a marshmallow'. Well. if you say so. As a result i purchased The Bends, Radioheads magnificent 2nd album, a 100 times better than their debut Pablo Honey, which while good in parts (Creep, Anyone Can Play Guitar and Prove Yourself) lacking a general consistency, that characterised their next 2, to make it a great album. So, The Bends proved to be an inspired buy packed with intelligent lyrics, mental guitar but also emotion. I then resolved to pluck up the courage to buy OK Computer. I still hadn't heard any songs - not having the music channels and they are rarely, if ever, played on the radio but i like to take risks and often this is the best way and i bought the album. Now if you are still with me i will explain why it is probably my favourite record ever. My first listen left me slightly unconvinced (as many do) however, my concentration on it was limited as i attempted to revise for my physics gcse. The next day i went for a walk with the dog and took my walkman loaded with a OK. Now if you ever want to get into a cd this is the best way - on your walkman. The music pumps straight into your ears, other sounds are blocked out and yopu begin to hear the little intricacys that make albums great - hidden guitar, wondrous vocals, a surprising drum beat. All of these hit me as i listned to OK Computer and since then more and more have come to light and that is the pleasure of this album - every time you listen to it something new and amazing can happen that you have never heard in it before. The 1st track 'airbag' is unfortunately perhaps the greatest let down of the album it just doesnt do anything special apart from the great lyric 'in an instellar burst, i'm back to save the universe' a great statement of intent from Thom Yorke as this album may not save the universe but it will restore for those who have lost their love and faith in music a little sanity. 'Paranoid Android' is where this album really kicks off - at just over 6 minutes long and in 3 sections that has led to the Bohemian Rhapsody comparisons but thankfully without the scarabuche bit. Jonny Greenwoods awesome guitar riffs lift this onto a different planet. 'Subterranean Homesick Alien' is surely one of the weirdest but best song titles in recent times and the song is equally as good, like the rest of the album containing beautiful, tortured lyrics with brilliant musicianship. Exit Music is surely the most beautiful song ever written it is packed with emotion and Thom's finally refrain 'we hope that you choke' along with the excellent acoustic guitars is simply undexcribable in terms of quality. 'Let Down' is another fantastic anthem 'let down and hanging around squashed like a bug in the ground'. It is followed by the exceptional Karma Police, and then Fitter Happier a change in style from the left field guitars to computerised voice lamenting the modern world but this shouldnt but anyone of as it is another highlight which segways perfectly between Karma Police and the up tempo if still downbeat and critical 'Electioneering' probably their fastest song ever. 'Climbing Up Walls' claustrophobic feel is the perfect intro to 'No Suprises' with the glockenspiel clanging and Thoms call for a handshake of carbon monoxide as long as he gets 'no alarms and no surprises'. Lucky the penultimate track would have been the perfect ending with an almost sing along quality but Radiohead lumped 'Tourist' on the end which in many ways doesn't stand up to the rest of the album - none the less this album is a must buy for any music fan there is no way that you will regret it - unless you dont like it - but that wouldn't happen, would it?
on 18 August 2012
Theres so many words that can be used to describe Ok Computer. Intriguing, eerie, weird, emotional, distant. In all honesty, all of them are true. Its so unique and brilliant. It is a thinking persons album, theres some many ideas bouncing around that you really have to think to understand it all. With themes of consumerism, alienation and technology this was never going to be a simple affair. The lyrics are magnificant and Thom Yorke proves why hes one of the best singers and lyricists we'll ever hear. Every song is pure brilliance and each member does great work.
'Airbag' opens with its DJ Shadow inspired drumming, lyrics describing a car crash Thom Yorke was in and layered sound. It basically sums up what to expect from here on in. 'Paranoid Android' is as experimental as it gets. Split into 4 sections, ranging from gospel-esque to aggressive rock, it is one the best tracks of the last 25 years. The lyrics build some great imageary and Jonny Greenwood's soloing is incredible. While 'Subterranean Homesick Alien' is very different, its very spacey and distant with more great lyrics (about alien abduction) and Phil Selway's drumming shines. 'Exit Music' is is beautiful. Half is just Yorke but its builds to a loud and chilling end. 'Let Down' is an emotional tour-de-force, the way Yorke sings is so touchingly sad and it again builds to a wonderful end. While 'Karma Police' is one of Radiohead's best know songs. It is certainly their catchiest, building from great piano-drumm interplay to a superb dreamy ending.
'Fitter Happier' is effectively the intermission. It sounds like Stephen Hawking mixed with Orson Wells, with some ambience, a strange track but still very interesting. 'Electionerring' is the rockiest thing here, Thom doing some political ranting over Jonnys blistering guitar. 'Climbing Up The Walls' is a chilling song. The creepy ambience, metallic drums, distorted vocals and haunting orchestra combine excellently and its one the scariest songs you'll hear. We then get the calming 'No Surprises'. Despite its suicide lyrics it sound like a lullaby and is a brilliant song. 'Lucky' is uplifting, talking about 'superheros' and it flows along on its cool echoing guitars and Yorke's powerful vocals. 'The Tourist' ends things brilliantly. It a slow number about taking time to enjoy things (hence its 'slow down, idiot' chorus). The guitars are breath-taking and Yorke's soft voice is incredible.
The best album ever? I think it just might be.
on 17 October 2007
I'm probably going to kick myself for writing this review, as I still haven't really come to terms with this album and, in truth, quite unprepared to write this. I've only had access to this album since October 6th, and one thing I've learned about Radiohead's OK COMPUTER is you won't get it the first time you listen to it.
As for my own knowledge of Radiohead, it's pretty much zip, zero. Indeed, I always thought they were just a one hit wonder band with "Creep," a song which doesn't really do much for me. I only found out about this album this year, and this discovery AMG. Trying to get their other releases, but for now this is all I have. I do know the title KID A is supposedly a reference to the first cloned human being, which York thinks already exists..
The simple fact is this: OK COMPUTER is a difficult record. Lyrics dealing with technology stripping away your identity set to very layered and groundbreaking, innovative music does not make for easy listening. This is an album you put in your CD player, hit player, and fifty three minutes later you wonder where in the world that came from. To use a cliche, the sum is greater than its parts. To fully appreciate OK COMPUTER, you need to listen to the whole thing, because, while every song on here (save for "Fitter, Happier," which works in context of the album, but is not really a stand alone "song" of any sorts) is very strong, you don't get the full effect unless you listen to it straight through. The album is one that demands your attention, and requires multiple listens to fully appreciate what is going on. Like any great album (or wine for that matter), the more exposure you get to it the more you realise what a gem you have here. The first time I listened to it I really didn't get it or why everyone thought OK COMPUTER was so great, but after a week of getting to know the album I'm (sort of) getting why everyone thinks this is so great.
My favorite facet of this album, however, is the fact that it gave us conclusive proof that modern music can actually produce worthwhile art. With music being dominated by flaccid and artistically inept bands whose sole goal is to get on the radio, it's nice to have a band out there like Radiohead doing something truly worthwhile with music.
Another great thing about this album is that my own generation now posses an album for ourselves. This album's outlook is molded from a viewpoint in which everywhere one looks technology is there, and indeed, the outlook does not know what life would be like without technology. While there has been some sort of technology since the Industrial Revolution, life's firm basis and very conduct has never been so reliant on it as it does now. This album could not have been made in the 1970s, or if it had, OK COMPUTER would be approached as a science fiction piece which turned out to be a prophecy. And while other quintessential albums in the rock canon are often viewed with great respect, there is a distance between them and my generation's lives. Sure, SGT. PEPPER revolutionized music and gave a legitimacy to rock that had otherwise been lacking, yet it really doesn't capture or feel nearly as relevant to our everyday lives as this does.
Now's the time for the obligatory Pink Floyd reference. The closest relation OK COMPUTER has was released a full 24 years before this release hit the stores. DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, Pink Floyd's best album, deals with modern life as no other album that I have heard does. DARK SIDE shows us with deep morose the hollowness of modernity. Being a Christian, I believe the answer to this hollowness is Jesus Christ. Do with that as you will.
OK COMPUTER does likewise, with this same theme updated too the 1990s and firmly rooted in the technology driven society we now find ourselves in. Both bands make their prospective albums relevant to our lives by communicating what we all feel inside. Both albums are tremendously popular. The paranoia, fear of losing your identity, the absolute bucking of letting technology strip away humanity, and the desire to be made more human is why this album became such a success.
Musically complex, lyrically thematic of searching for something higher, this album was destined to be a classic, and shows us why Radiohead stands as one of rock's most creative bands.
P. S. It is not for anything that there is a Douglas Adams reference on OK COMPUTER. The title of one of my favorite songs on the album, "Paranoid Android," is taken from HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, a book that deals with trying to discover the meaning of the universe. Adams was a "radical atheist," and HITCHHIKER clearly portrays that. It also explores the essential meaningless of life and tries to come up with a solution to a life without God. After having experienced Adams' stories for myself, my own conclusion is this: I'd much rather believe in a God and it prove to be a fraud than live in a universe such as the one portrayed by Adams. With no God, there is no purpose, no meaning to life. HITCHHIKER shows us this quite clearly, and for myself Adams shows the utter hopelessness of life. OK COMPUTER in an assured manner that humanity will prevail while acknowledging the pain we feel.
P. P. S. The other essential 1990s album is AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE, by REM.
P. P. P. S. "Subterranean Homesick Alien," for those who don't know (which will be few) is a reference to Bob Dylan. As for album of the year, OK COMPUTER is more deserving of that honour than TIME OUT OF MIND.