Sputnikmusic is filled with a lot of OK Computer reviews I am well aware of that. We all also know how superb Radiohead are and that this album is a 5-Star album that will in, all probability go down in history as one of the best start-to-finish albums ever. This is not necessarily a review, more in fact an idea or ‘theory’ about the entire idea of the album. This album is a concept album with not many reviews (in my opinion) successfully analysing the entire concept.
We all know that Thom Yorke is literally a genius. Songwriting especially his lyrics can be overwhelming and though-provoking, on OK Computer it is Yorke at his finest. To accept this concept of mine keep and open mind and realise that this is Thom Yorke, Colin Greenwood, Johnny Greenwood, Phil Selway and Ed O’Brien, collectively known as Radiohead. Thom’s lyrics are depressing and cover a range of topics.
OK Computer is the story of a man’s life as he fades slowly into in-sanity and eventually becomes brain-damaged or insane (keep an open mind). Keep in mind this is Thom Yorke and his lyrics are deeply depression and emotional.
AIRBAG: Airbag is one of the easiest songs to analyse, the character’s story starts with a ‘bang’ with an up-tempo song. The song is the story of the character surviving a horrific car crash, “I'm amazed that I survived. An airbag saved my life.” With the character feeling like he has a new outlook on life. “I am born again”.
PARANOID ANDROID: After surviving the crash we see the character’s life change rapidly with the different verses of the ‘modern bohemian rhapsody’ representing the dramatic mood changes that the character is having. Although hard to grasp, I think the song is about a fight that occurs between the character and someone else, the first verse is the argument “your opinion which is of no consequence at all”, the argument escalates with the character murdering the other person, “Why don't you remember my name"
”I guess he does....” reveals the mistake he has made, with the third verse representing the guilt he is feeling.
The dramatic fourth verse is the resent about himself he feels at his friends funeral “That's it, sir. You're leaving”
SUBTERRANEAN HOMESICK ALIEN: After the dramatic events the character lapses into a deep, deep depression, “I live in a town
Where you can't smell a thing”. The characters mental well-being starts to slip from him and he begins to resent the society he is living in, which is a re-occurring theme:
”Of all these weird creatures
Who lock up their spirits
Drill holes in themselves
And live for their secrets”
EXIT MUSIC (FOR A FILM): This song is definitely about a lover that the character kills, late at night or before daybreak. I feel the character must leave to have something or someone exciting in his life. The characters dark mental state represented by the darkness and sorrow of the depressing song, finally when the song climaxes we see the anger and dramatic mood change from the character, killing his lover “We hope your rules and wisdom choke you”. The character kills his lover.
LET DOWN: A bad mental state and deep depression force the character to suicide by means of jumping in front of transport, but fails.
” Transport, motorways and tramlines
Starting and then stopping
Taking off and landing
The emptiest of feelings”
The character’s (and Yorke’s) resentment in society again shines through when he reveals how he feels about death in society
”Disappointed people clinging on to bottles
And when it comes it's so, so disappointing”
The character is ‘Let Down’ that others can feel this way when he wants to die.
KARMA POLICE: The character cannot understand how he can commit these bad actions, (murder) but still not have back luck happen to him, “We’re still on the payroll”.
The resentment of society is also experienced again by the character, by resenting the “Math’s-talking” man and “Hitler-hairdo” lady.
FITTER HAPPIER: The purpose of this song is to make the listener feel like the character at this point in time. Depressed, resentful, feels like there is no purpose to his life, this song sucks the life and feeling of happiness or any positive feeling out of the listener, Radiohead want you to feel like the character, experience it.
ELECTIONEERING: This is the only song that does not fit into the concept of this character. It is still a great song and worthy of the album, I simply cannot find a link between this song and the development of the character.
CLIMBING UP THE WALLS: Thom has said this song is about mental patients, therefore I believe the character is in a mental institution, either from free-will of has been placed in against his own will. In the UK mental patients were allowed ‘free-time’ in the community, this is where this song stems from, with the song, the spying, following and perhaps murder “15 blows to the back of your head”, is what the character feels or perhaps has done. The characters feeling of hatred, depression and sorrow is also expressed
”I've got the smile of a local man
who’s got the loneliest feeling”
NO SURPRISES: I have been definite about the them of this song, and am willing to back it up always, the song represents someone planning their own death, with Radiohead covering up these pessimistic with enjoyable and lullaby-like music. The character again shows his views on how poor society and his resentment of society
”A job that slowly kills you
Bruises that won't heal”
The character then plans his own death
”I'll take a quiet life
A handshake of carbon monoxide
No Alarms, and No Surprises
With the character remembering his house and basking in his memories, thinking about how enjoyable finally being dead will be, but is written in a sinister way only Thom Yorke could accomplish.
”Such a pretty house, such a pretty garden”
LUCKY: The character is determined to die and believes he will.
”The Head of State has called for me by name
But I don't have time for him
It's gonna be a glorious day
I feel my luck could change”
The character is looking for to this day, feeling his luck will change and he will finally die, the characters mental condition will certainly help him complete his objective. The theme of transport and technology is again occurred with the character involved in an air-crash.
”Pull me out of the air crash
Pull me out of the lake”
Although written before OK Computer, I feel that Radiohead have written songs ‘around’ Lucky as to fit into the theme of the album. From Exit Music (For A Film) we know the character murder’s a lover, at the beginning of Lucky he is reminiscing about a lost lover,
”Kill me Sarah
Kill me again”
In Let Down, the lyrics state “One day I am going to grow wings” with the song being about the characters failed attempt at suicide. This is a long shot I know but once again it is Radiohead.
THE TOURIST: This is a tricky one, to me the character survives but is completely insane/brain damaged and can not live a normal life like that the rest of society, a feeling that is echoed somewhat by Thom Yorke. A great finish to the story of the character and a somewhat depressing outlook on the characters life after all he has been through.
You either believe this review or not, I know it is not a proper album-review as such but where better place to review an album not on the music itself but the story (maybe) behind it. At times the concepts sound too depressing or cynical but once again remember the lyricist for these songs. Throughout the album Yorke has a number of reoccurring issues in his songwriting;
The dislike and fascination of machinery, transport and technology, but the main occurrence is the resentment and how he doesn’t understand certain aspects of society. Never-the-less Yorke and Radiohead take the listener on an indescribable journey of emotions, a definite classic. Hope you liked the review.