Radiohead
OKNOTOK 1997-2017


3.6
great

Review

by Rowan5215 STAFF
July 6th, 2017 | 205 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: of course "lighten up, squirt" is a Radiohead lyric

OK Computer is a tricky one. Half of it is the sound of Radiohead racing forward musically at the speed of light, outpacing all their peers, ironically dreading all the while every technological advance; haunted by dreams of a 'city of the future'. The other half sounds like holdovers from The Bends, a throwback to the straight-laced English schoolboy Radiohead of "High and Dry", the Radiohead where cheesy guitar ballads and rifftacular rock songs go hand in hand, but there's little room for anything else. In other words, OK Computer is and always has been a hot mess, held together largely by Thom's paranoia about the new millennium and an overwhelming distaste for fridges. Considering this distrust of the new, is it not incredibly fitting for the band to scour the vaults for old songs and deep cuts never heard before? Update 'em with a beefy remaster, repackage with two fancy new music videos, repeat for all of time and that's it – who needs to look to the future ever again?

Of course, a big part of excavating the past is digging through the layers of *** to get to the gold. A feeling that never once accompanied my listens of the Amnesiac or Hail to the Thief b-sides washed over me when listening to OKNOTOK: some of the stuff Radiohead leave off their albums is, hear me out here, just not very good. "Pearly*" and "Palo Alto" are the biggest offenders, grungey riffy homunculi that sound like Pablo Honey offcuts recorded with a larger budget. "Lull" and "A Reminder" are halfway on the road to being something great, but the repetitive melodies and arrangements betray their good intentions. At their best, as even the album art suggests, these b-sides are fascinating as blueprints of the album proper. "Polyethylene (Parts 1 & 2)"'s ballsy dynamic change is an early roadmap for the schizophrenia of "Paranoid Android", and one listen to "I Promise" demonstrates a simplistic hit-making formula that you can hardly bedgrudge the band for following to a T on "No Surprises" and "Karma Police".

OKNOTOK will be of little interest to a passerby in a record store; its main value even for the die-hardiest of Radiohead fans is that little peek behind the curtain, a crack of light closer to understanding the way one of the most elusive bands in the world works. Radiohead could easily have leaned further into the fuzzed out Massive Attack worship – put "Meeting in the Aisle" and "Polyethylene" on the tracklist, and all of a sudden "Climbing Up the Walls" doesn't feel so alone – or they could have stuck by "Lift" and "I Promise" and delivered a real 90s record, a true followup to The Bends: an alt-rock masterpiece of massive choruses and massive complacency. Instead they compromised, giving us the truly split personality record we know today as OK Computer. Opinions will vary as to whether they made the right choice for probably as long as Radiohead meme pages exist (so forever), but for better or worse one thing's for sure: this would be the last time Radiohead ever compromised on their sound.



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user ratings (111)
Chart.
4.7
superb
other reviews of this album
Winesburgohio CONTRIBUTOR (4)
Everything in it's Right Place, Right Time...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
July 6th 2017


39143 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

tfw winesburg destroys your review before you've even had a chance to post it :-(

Digging: Soundtrack (Television) - BoJack Horseman

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
July 6th 2017


14921 Comments


I'm pretty sure this is the Sput approved take on 'Ok Computer'.

'In Rainbows' is just as in thrall of 'The Bends' and everyone creams themselves over that one here...I just dump the baggage and ask which Radiohead album is the most well crafted and the answer is always 'Ok Computer' (with 'Kid A' a worthy runner up)

'No Surprises' and 'Karma Police' are excellent, come now. They kept on recording songs like that on all the following NO COMPROMISE (big letters) albums ('Knives Out', 'Go To Sleep', 'Optimistic') they just usually weren't quite as good.

'Pearly' is still probably better than any song Muse ever recorded, the B-Sides from this era are the best ones (with a few exceptions). I mean Yorke even still enjoyed singing his lungs out at this stage, that's gotta be worth something when he's one of the most beloved vocalists of the last fifty years?

Digging: East River Pipe - Shining Hours In A Can

Tunaboy45
July 6th 2017


15496 Comments


Calling half of the album holdovers from The Bends is a bit unfair, also Karma Police and No Surprises are hardly formulaic.

Well written review but you're selling the album short Rowbro.

Digging: The National - Sleep Well Beast

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
July 6th 2017


39143 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

No Surprises sounds like it was written in five minutes lol don't kid yourself



really doof? how much of the Bends foreshadowed 15 Step? or Reckoner? you've got wax in your ears if you think that. then again that would actually explain a lot

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
July 6th 2017


39143 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

also you missed my no compromise point - I never said that was the last time they recorded a poppy song, I said they refused from this point on to split their albums half and half to try and appease both areas of the fanbase, every single album from here on has a sound and a muse and dives straight for it with no reservations

Tunaboy45
July 6th 2017


15496 Comments


Just because it's simple, doesn't mean it was slapped together. It's not as if the lyrics sound that way either. I honestly can't see where they make any compromises on this album, with the possible exception of Electioneering and even then that song would sound out of place on The Bends.

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
July 6th 2017


14921 Comments


Can't think of much else that sounds like 'no surprises', esp in '97. Lyrics are incredible, vocals are incredible - what more to say? It 'doesn't have a glitch drum track so not creative so a 1' argument.

The whole of Rainbows has a light Bends homage feel, where say, the more obviously 'rock-ist' HTTT doesn't. 'Jigsaw', 'Nude', 'Bodysnatchers' are where it's most obvious but it pervades the whole warmer vibe of that album and Thom's vocal approach in particular.

Lisrening to their output chronologically the return of such elements of their sound was clear as day to me on 2007 but maybe if approached differently it wouldn't be so apparent. But it's there, 100%.

zakalwe
July 6th 2017


22712 Comments


"Radiohead could easily have leaned further into the fuzzed out Massive Attack worship – put "Meeting in the Aisle" and "Polyethylene" on the tracklist
Instead they compromised"

They compromised by killing off britpop, stretching the boundaries of guitar music, skewing the perception of what a mainstream act could achieve, married rock with conceptual art into an album whose themes will remain timeless and evolved as a band whose next record would alter the perceptions of rock music entirely

Hell of a compromise.

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
July 6th 2017


14921 Comments


Row I'm saying your idea they appeased their fan base on 'Computer' is nonsense - the idea it's 50% 'for us' and 50% 'for the proles' is reductive. They just chose the best songs that worked best together in the context of the album they wanted to deliver, take 'we hate that song now' comments from musicians with a pinch of salt, they all say similar, it's what comes from taking the same set of songs on the road for years and years.

This album never sounded like a compromise...and never will.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
July 6th 2017


39143 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

can't be bothered arguing, listen to the music all the facts are there. y'all acting like I gave your precious favourite album a 1 or something lmao

zakalwe
July 6th 2017


22712 Comments


You've taken the music out of its original context dude.

butcherboy
Contributing Reviewer
July 6th 2017


4400 Comments


agreed with this rating.. most of this was floating around for years, and no matter how brilliant radiohead are, it does not mean that every B-side breath they took was an inarguable masterpiece.. plenty o'duds here..

Digging: Rip Rig Panic - God

Tunaboy45
July 6th 2017


15496 Comments


The context is pretty important for this too, you listen to an album like The Great Escape and it was clear Britpop needed killing off. This album did exactly that and also proved Radiohead weren't just another mopey alt rock band.

Ayashi
July 6th 2017


288 Comments


Was the normal album remastered as well? If so, I need this.

This is literally my favorite album of all time, NO WAY in a cold-ass day in hell should this drop below a 4 no matter what you think of the b-sides..

While I hate to say any album is "sacred", Abbey Road and Ok Computer effectively are. You have a hearing defect.

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
July 6th 2017


14921 Comments


All I'll say is anyone who thinks a song like 'No Surprises' is the sort of thing Chris Martin might have written is 'surface level skimming' and probably deserves stoning to death.

LandDiving
Contributing Reviewer
July 6th 2017


1590 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

or maybe, guys, he has a different opinion and a different criterion for the way he rates albums. jesus.



No Surprises is better than anything Chris Martin has ever written but that doesn't mean that he wasn't likely heavily inspired by it, get off your high horses

AsleepInTheBack
July 6th 2017


4668 Comments


I do struggle to see how OKC was a compromise, but each to their own. As has been said, seems to be a decontextualised analysis.

theBoneyKing
July 6th 2017


11644 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

First of all, you're making the judgment that sounding like The Bends is a bad thing (it isn't), but that's your opinion.



However I really fail to see how half of this sounds like The Bends holdovers. At best only Electioneering and maybe No Surprises sound like they could've been from that album.



Also what you say about appeasing both sides of their fan base makes no sense as in 1997 nobody was looking for or expecting Radiohead to go in an arty direction as they did here.



"every single album from here on has a sound and a muse and dives straight for it with no reservations"



This doesn't really make sense as both Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief are objectively more varied in sound than this.

Digging: The National - Sleep Well Beast

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
July 6th 2017


14921 Comments


LandD - all friendly discussion

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
July 6th 2017


14921 Comments


Has anyone else listened to the latest B-Side 'Ill Wind'? That's one of their all time best.



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