Review Summary: A Chemical Reaction: The Core of OK Computer
“Oh my god” you must have thought, “Someone gave OK Computer
a perfect score”.
The coffee mug slipped from your hands and crashed onto the floor, you didn’t notice.
“Whom should I call first”, your internal monologue raced frantically as you fumbled for your cell phone, “I could call the mayor? The governor? Or maybe I should go right for the president
I get it; this album has many a word devoted to it. Endless think pieces, lists, retrospectives, skeptics wondering if its really all that, and enough breathlessly glowing write-ups to fill a library. On this website alone there is five friggin’ pages of reviews for it already. But I’m not sick of reading about it and I’m willing to bet you aren’t either so hold back your snarky comments for a second, if you want to read about how great “Paranoid Android” is you’ve got 5 pages to choose from. I’m here to talk about something different.
Lets talk about feelings.
Have you ever pulled up the GPS application on your phone, centered on your location, and just stared at it? You don’t mean to, you’re trying to find an ATM or something, but now you’re just standing and staring at that blue dot. Then you start zooming out, eyes fixed on that blue dot, as the map grows larger and larger until you’re looking at the entire world with one blue dot on it. Somewhere in those pixels is you. That’s you surrounded by millions of other blue dots. You’re a number, and you’ll be a number until you’re another type of number underground.
That’s how this album makes me feel, it makes me feel like a number.
But that doesn’t even begin to describe how this album makes me feel, that’s a big fat bummer of an emotion I just described up there but what nobody else seems to talk about is that this album makes me happy. Overjoyed even.
What this album does, that no other record I own does, is make me happy to be a number. Because in the time it took you to read this, sh*tloads of people just died and you weren’t one of them! You get to keep having good and bad experiences in almost equal measure and watch as culture evolves around you. Congratulations! I’m happy I got to survive long enough to hear this album once, let alone the thousandth millionth billionth time I’m hearing it for right now.
That’s why I still love reading about this album; everyone keeps prodding at the center of some kind of emotion this album holds in its core without hitting it directly. Most go for the easy way out, “Its about technology’s numbing effect on the soul, a vision of a future in which we all communicate through screens, where we all live together and hopelessly alone simultaneously.” I made that up off the top of me head but I’m willing to wager you’ve read something just like that about this record. To me, this album is about hope and although I truly believe that from the bottom of my heart I cannot quite explain why
Maybe its because it was, like many of you, the first album. Not the first album I ever heard or even owned, but the one that shifted everything, the one that sent me babbling like an apostle to my peers to spread the gospel of this album’s indescribable majesty. During my freshman year of high school, on a hopeless quest to buy every album in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time
, I picked it up from the FYE in my local mall for the highway robbery price of $20 (Not a deluxe edition or anything!). The computer was unavailable, so I sat on my couch at home and listened to it on my Dad’s old Discman. Immediately upon completion I declared it the greatest album I had ever heard. Every time I let the opening chords flood my brain, I’m sitting on that couch again, having my future rewritten.
Maybe its because in spite of the clearly depressing themes explored here, the sadness, the alienation, the surrender, the music is so beautiful it constantly reminds your subconscious that you have the great privilege of getting to experience it almost whenever you want. Maybe its because I don’t get nostalgic over this record, wishing I could hear it anew once more, but it sounds like past and present and future colliding, everything taking place at once, every time I’ve heard this album and will hear it all playing out in front of me.
Maybe it’s because of “Let Down”.
One winter night, I loaded a car up with friends, got stoned out of our noggins, and listened to this entire album while driving down the highway. According to one of those friends, listening to “Let Down” that night was the best music had ever sounded for him in his life. I can’t quite relate, I drove that night and spent the entire time scared out of my mind but I understand. Clayton Purdom, writing for CokeMachineGlow, said that “Between those spidering guitars is an awful lot of empty space, and hope creeps its meek head through, a feeble grin spreads. And then the soaring, impudent, unregistered, hysterical closing cracks its skull on the subway floor, and the universe twinkles on, unaware and unremorseful.” More than anything than I’ve ever read about this album, this comes closest to getting at the soul of this record. Somewhere in the middle of it’s whirlwind of madness brought on by the numbness of modern life, is hope.
When Thom Yorke claims “One day, I am going to grow wings”, it sounds like a child’s desperate plea, a scientific impossibility relegated to fiction hopelessly being wished for by a man crushed underneath his own existence. But as his voice joins with his own during the bridge, ascending to the heavens in gloriously prolonged falsetto