Review Summary: Our album, our band, our music
Websites like this exist; record labels sustain themselves; and bands prosper because of one reason alone. It is the reason that, at their core, Peter W. Richards or Ryan Incognito are every bit the equals to people like Nick Butler or Robin Smith, why Kyle Ward’s or Jeremy Ferwerda’s opinions are just as relevant as those of Austin Tracey’s or Jake C. Taylor’s. You see, in the context of being the listeners, we all play the same game. We are all the same: we love music, and we, my readers, keep our favorite artists alive so that they may record more songs in the future.
For without us, music as we now know it would end.
But why, though? What makes us come back to this music
, makes us ever willing to place trust in a new group or artist? Templates. Revolutionaries. The best of the best. Why, it’s for the very creative head(s) that did it the best for us first that we return, and of whose albums that we evaluate every new release by. A few notable British bands come to mind – the obvious ones, but one band has set the course for the majority of us here in this particular place, overall, we mostly having been born in the 80s or 90s and having grown up since then with our music to the present day. The band, I give you Radiohead, and the album, I petition to you their best work, 1997’s Ok Computer
For our generation, Ok Computer
is the best album, the most essential. It’s what The Dark Side of the Moon
, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
, Led Zeppelin IV
, and the like were for our parents: a defining auditory landmark – essentially, the best that any band in the last twenty or so years has ever had to offer. But it doesn’t present itself as such, though, being so reserved and subtle, ever able to withstand those that criticize it by slowly finding a way into their hearts over the weeks, or over the years. Ok Computer
is neither a slut nor a passing fancy, neither a tourist for a particular season nor an assurance for the future (heaven forbid it): it only gives itself to you if it finds you worthy.
And thankfully, most are worthy, eventually. For the strain of resemblance running through all of those listeners that belong to Ok Computer
goes a little deeper than our actual age: it’s what we are all facing now, in 2010, that the album warned us about, built its depressive atmosphere on top of - it is the very future now manifested in the present. An ironic piece spoken through the words of the Microsoft
robot guy on “Fittier Happier” thirteen years ago in 1997 runs an eerie parallel to yours and my own hopes for our days' habitual routines, those healthy ones that we will never have – but that is the point: “Sleeping well, no bad dreams, no paranoia . . . keeping in contact with old friends
,” and the like.
But it’s the emotional far-reaching grasp of songs like “Let Down” and “Climbing Up The Walls” that take the foundation of Radiohead’s bleak lyrical subjects and stretch them even deeper to represent the tension of a fearful age. Thom Yorke was the Twilight Zone
host in 1997 for the 21st century that was to come, his voice instilling a sense of hopelessness while speaking wisdom as if coming from those bitter individuals born of harsh lives. Over sparse acoustic guitar chords he sheds light, or rather darkness, on a Romeo and Juliet
story, taking a classic setup and filling it with pessimistic undertones to add a deeper emotional weight to the tale: “Pack and get dressed / Before your father hears us / Before all hell breaks loose
Over a Sunday morning-wake up instrumentals of “No Surprises”, Yorke details the pointlessness of life revelation that comes in a mid-life crisis, and in “Paranoid Android”, the man turns schizophrenic and becomes crazy, with the rest of Radiohead firing off in all directions instrumentally, yet coming out of it with one hell of an end picture of bleakness and paranoia. The messages entwined into Ok Computer
, or as many past interviews with Radiohead have said, the concept album that’s not a concept album, paint a picture based on the mood that the album creates. Yorke is certainly a vital, key piece here, whose vocal melodies add several dimensions to every line voiced; but Radiohead’s alt-rock aesthetic, those memorable instrumentals from the rocking “Electioneering” or the main resounding riff in “Let Down”, are just as vital to the album’s overall picture.
It’s a picture that paints our present as it is here in the future for the offspring of the 80s and 90s - but Ok Computer
does not do this outright. If it had, then the end effect would be much more dulled, lacking power. Subtly, as is so vital in much of alt-rock and indie-rock, is key here, and what Radiohead come away with is an album for the ages, our
age, that has only recently for many of us garnered its true worth. This leads me to say that in listening to Ok Computer
, you must understand the context in which it was created and the context of who it was created for – whether that was initially intended by Radiohead to begin with or not: It is our album. It was here that we were first mystified – it was here that we first feared for the future, for crying out loud; and it is here that every future “classic” will be compared and accessed by. Music as we know it is alive because of albums like Ok Computer
, created by bands like Radiohead. We owe music's survival to them as much as they owe it to us.