Review Summary: An album that bakes in its own hostility, but still manages to be a variety of different emotions. OK Computer is brilliant.
(Note: this is to make up for my lost Back to Save the Universe review, that got strangely deleted)
When it comes to music, at one point or another, there is one album. One album that is, solely, a revelation for a new genre, one that would define a turning point, to open the doors to the genre and make it popular. Black Sabbath's Paranoid
and Metallica's Kill 'Em All
, for example, opened the doors to two new types of metal, with ambitions and high expectations met. In The Court of the Crimson King
featured the famous screaming face cover that, alone, defined prog rock in its own way. Modern life, culture, and religion has all been changed by the way music acts. Radiohead's OK Computer is probably the single biggest message of the 90's that decade: that modern day technology, capitalism, social war, and modern alienation have all conquered our minds in negative effects. And OK Computer was massive: in its own way, it revived alternative music and assaulted it insanely. OK Computer is as exciting and impressive as it is emotionally disturbing and cataclysmic. And due to that message alone, one that had close to never been uttered before in songwriting before hand, makes this one of the most respected, and rightfully so, albums of all time.
This third album was made in the middle of 1997, when we were graced by several british bands when the genre was rising. After the surprise success of a sole single, "Creep", that made Radiohead's first album popular, and the generally favored The Bends, their second, more well-received release, the group tried something that most bands had not done yet before: made the infamous OK Computer, an album that the media and public liked for the haunting music and messages. From the earth-shattering pitch of Thom Yorke's cataclysmic falsetto, the peaceful, hauntingly beautiful acoustic and guitar melodies, the transitioning drum beats, and the numerous instruments used, like the harmonic glockenspiel, violin, and sound effects, it made the album different. Just listen to "The Tourist", the album's closer. It hooks you with generic lyrics that speak a million words: "Whoooa man.... slowwww dowwwn...", or "They're all uptiight". It's a saddening album at times (with the exception of Lucky), and scary, a fact proven by the nature of "Climbing Up The Walls".
And nothing else could be asked of each band member, nearly fourteen years later. The waves of incredible feedback after OK Computer were not directed at someone in particular, but everybody does an exceptional job. The instruments are haunting and chilling, yet utterly mesmerizing. The falsetto voice of Thom Yorke is different and hooking, and the production of the album, considering the locations recorded at (St. Catherine's Court), is second to none, with the audio coming through crisp and clear. And every aspect of the album changes. "Airbag"'s electronic drum loops mixed in with a heavy guitar riff is strangely pleasant, and "Paranoid Android"'s multiple sections, split up into several sounds and feels, feels like another "Bohemian Rhapsody". Radiohead is like Pink Floyd: they're disturbing at times, but yet unique and brilliant. Take "Fitter Happier", one of the scariest interludes of all time, but the opening words tell a story (Fitter, Happier, More Productive), and "Climbing Up The Walls"'s lyrical nature of insanity and killing, "Subterranean Homesick Alien"'s beautiful melodies intertwining with lyrics about alienation and abduction, and "Electioneering"'s straightforward guitar riff over an attack against politicians and capitalism.
It's a damn epic album, and one that can please anybody. Alternative and progressive fans will clearly have their needs satisfied here, but hard rock fans looking for guitar work can turn to this album, and Yorke's voice should more than intrigue aspiring vocalists. The shift from lyrics to instrumental choruses is rhythmically stellar. Chances are, as much as you hate an album, as much as it can frustrate you, there is an aspect of OK Computer, whatever it may be, that can, and will, please you. But in this hour of stunning brilliance, lies an album that, fourteen years later, made in the middle of summer, helped build Radiohead into, arguably, the biggest alternative band today. One hour helped transition them from highly mentioned names to rock superstars.
And you know what's better? They still make great material, years later.
Great instrumental work
A stellar falsetto voice by Thom Yorke
The haunting nature and messages will hook you every time
It's not perfect, far from it
The falsetto is not always perfect (listen to "Let Down", pun intended)
4.5 / 5
It's hard to pick a favorite, but due to the slow, peaceful nature of "The Tourist", that would have to be one. Hard rockers will enjoy tracks like "Airbag" and "Electioneering", and fans of long epics should enjoy "Paranoid Android".