Radiohead OK Computer

[Capitol; 1997]

Rating: 5/5

Styles: experimental rock
Others: Björk, Sigur Ros, Autechre, Aphex


In an interstellar burst, Radiohead slaps the music world on the face with one of the most respected and acclaimed albums in rock & roll history. OK Computer came seemingly out of nowhere and kicked our asses until there was nothing left to kick. This landmark masterpiece set a new standard for rock musicians that has yet to be challenged. It's beautiful, mysterious, scary, and thought-provoking; a record that will indefinitely be a future classic.

The lyrics vary from songs about running away from home ("Exit Music") to homicidal insanity ("Climbing Up the Walls"). The overall theme of OK Computer seems to be more or less a satire on modern life; mocking our choice of living -- a far departure from the less complex lyrics of their sophomore effort The Bends. Yorke sings in "Let Down", "Transport, motorways and tramlines / Starting and then stopping / Taking off and landing / The emptiest of feelings."

One of the greatest elements found on this album is the use of dynamics. Each song is a climactic hellride, and although some of the songs have a minor tone, they somehow emit an uplifting feeling. Take "Exit Music (for a film)" for example: dark, mysterious music with somber lyrics. The song begins with a reverb coated Mr. Yorke singing over an acoustic guitar, which is later sprinkled with minimal keyboard sounds and a tape loop. After a few cymbal hits toward the heart of the song, it kicks into full gear with fuzz bass and multiple guitars. Thom then sings an ascending vocal melody that raises the intensity meter to 11, but the music soon trips over itself; falling back on the acoustic guitar and tape loop. Breathtaking.

Another noticeable trait on OK Computer is the incredible amount of variety, yet the album still flows perfectly despite the varying styles. A bulk of the songs seamlessly morph into the next, resulting in smooth transitions and easy listening.

Even the production is undeniably perfect for this album. Some of their newer efforts (Kid A and Amnesiac) seem to be over-baked or the instruments seem too distant from each other, but with help from producer Nigel Godrich, Radiohead have created a multi-layered soundscape that flawlessly combines a live band atmosphere with a studio environment.

Did I mention the last chorus of "Let Down"? The guitar solos in "The Tourist"? The unearthly noises in "Subterranean Homesick Alien?" The bridge section in "Paranoid Android"? The second verse in "Lucky"? From the chaotic, distorted guitar in "Airbag" to the simple bell hit in "The Tourist", OK Computer drags you through an array of emotions, leaving your body in a state of euphoria.

Years after its release, OK Computer can still recapture every emotion and feeling I have ever had toward the album -- a true sign of a brilliant piece of work. Words cannot stress how amazing this album truly is. OK Computer is a necessity for every music fan, or human being at that. If this album doesn't move you, you have no soul.

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