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Radiohead – Ok Computer [Album Review]

April 21, 2012

Airbag / Paranoid Android / Subterranean Homesick Alien / Exit Music (For A Film) / Let Down / Karma Police / Fitter Happier / Electioneering / Climbing Up The Walls / No Surprises / Lucky / The Tourist

So, what the hell happened? I don’t know, I doubt even Radiohead know, but this album is a tremendous leap forward. Radiohead had been listening to experimental Jazz music, and ‘other kinds’ of music and it all pieced together and helped. Then unknown producer Nigel Godrich did a stunning if not perfect job, and funnily enough producers don’t always get the credit they deserve. His name was made entirely by his work with Radiohead here. The acclaim and reviews ‘Ok Computer’ received made it an instant new ‘Sgt Pepper’, or more accurately, an instant new ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’. Within months, ‘OK Computer’ was one of the greatest albums ever made. More sceptical and suspicious US music critics received copies of ‘OK Computer’ glued into a special walkman, so that they had no choice but to listen to it. Therefore making them come around. Some US Radiohead fans found the group via ‘Ok Computer’ then later decided that they preferred ‘The Bends’ all along, even though none of them bought ‘The Bends’ at the time, which reached the mid reaches of ‘Billboard’ whilst ‘OK Computer’ went top twenty, a significant move forwards for Radiohead. And you know, the evidence is here. ‘Airbag’ is a re-write of ‘Planet Telex’ only it has twice as good lyrics, three times the atmosphere and is generally better all around. If you have some special attachment to ‘Planet Telex’, congratulations, but I cannot comprehend anybody preferring ‘Planet Telex’ to ‘Airbag’ myself. The improvement in the lyrics alone should be enough to convince anyone, and that’s ignoring the much improved music. ‘Paranoid Android’ is a ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ for the nineties, a ‘Good Vibrations’ or a ‘Telstar’ for the nineties. There! That threw you, didn’t it?? A ‘Telstar’ for the Nineties?! It has nothing in common with the Joe Meek classic ‘Telstar’ whatsoever, except for the fact that ‘Paranoid Android’ broke new ground, if only with the fact that it’s so brilliant its beggars belief. I’ve seen video footage of Radiohead playing this song live, and just look at the guitar players fingers! Just look at the stretches and really bizarre shapes he makes with his fingers. And it sounds good too! And the section that floats in dreamily with holy sounding chanting and the ‘rain down on me’ section. It’s all stunning, it’s all brilliant. But, Radiohead being Radiohead, known for their dislike of video’s, decided to use an animation that was so shitty it made you bang your head against a wall. A ‘Paranoid Android’ with an excellent video to match would have been a major hit single, instead of the just fairly sizable hit single ( it reached no 2 in the uk for a week only ) that it was unfortunately.

Uttter genius out of the way, how about some more genius? The brilliantly titled ‘Subterranean Homesick Alien’ has evocative lyrics, spooky sounds and wonderful atmospheres, atmosphere is most certainly the  key. The lyrics are key, and the glue that holds it all together. Thom sounds magnificent, and ‘Exit Music’ isn’t too far behind, either. ‘Let Down’ and ‘Karma Police’ are pretty straightforward moments for ‘OK Computer’, but ‘Let Down’ for one, with its sweet guitar sounds is brilliant. So far, ‘OK Computer’ is almost too good to be true. Relief is at hand! The bizarre Stephen Hawkings computer voice of the spoken ‘Fitter Happier’ freaks you out, ‘Electioneering’ was an early US Radiohead record label favourite, ‘a potential hit’, before it finally reached ‘OK Computer’ and was turned into a delightful yet impassioned guitar mess! Whoops! There goes the radio play down the drain! Still, no matter! ‘Climbing Up The Walls’ along with ‘Fitter Happier’ I suppose is the nearest ‘OK Computer gets to a weak moment, but ‘Climbing Up The Walls’ is scary as shit, and fits the album. The album starts to develop rather than just being a random collection of brilliant songs with a technology and alienation theme loosely linking it together. The closing three songs are all great, the sweet guitar of ‘No Surprises’, the slow and emotionally draining closing five minute long epic ( can a song five minutes long be an epic? this is! ) and the absolutely storming and awe-inspiring ‘Lucky’ sitting in the middle of it all, that almost manages to better ‘Paranoid Android’, and perhaps does. ‘OK Computer’ lives upto the hype, one of the greatest albums ever made.

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