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O.K. Computer

music reviewmusic reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: O.K. Computer

Artist: Radiohead
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: July 1997
Note(s): Won 1998 Grammy for best alternative music and nominated for best album of the year

Review by LarryG
3 stars out of 4

It's certainly not a stretch to call Radiohead the Pink Floyd of our time which I guess makes OK Computer our Dark Side of the Moon. OK Computer is an ambitious, atmospheric record. Generally slow and moody, OK Computer often reaches a kind of trippy transcendence. Paranoid Android slowly unfolds and keeps your attention over more than six minutes. The dreamy epic rises and falls in intensity starting with Yorke quietly asking, The band tries a number of things but the record is unified by Thom Yorke's yearning vocals. Yorke seems to feel his songs so deeply, it can break your heart. Over sadly chiming keyboards on No Surprises, he sings of having "a heart that's full up like a landfill" and being so bruised and tired that he wants a boring, quiet life. Radiohead show they can rock on Electioneering, with Yorke playing a cynical politician who "will stop at nothing" to get elected. It's tempting to wish Yorke could loosen up a little but his intensity is largely what makes Radiohead interesting. The band does show a sense of humor on the bizarre Fitter Happier which has a computer voice reading to himself a list of goals which can help him self actualize.

Review by Nick
3½ stars out of 4

Just one listen to this masterpiece and you will instantly recognise what a leap forward it is from The Bends it is. Where The Bends was derivative and bombastic this is a infintely detailed and breathtakingly vast in its myriad textures. It is a monumental testament to the talents of one of the best bands of the 90's.Dont get me wrong, The Bends is a very, very good album but it just doesn't strike out for its own territory like this does. OK Computer is an incomparable achievment in modern music. It is a torturous listen at times and sometimes leaves you feeling a certain chill in the heart of your very existence but this is just another level at which the album works. It instills a sense of emptiness in you which reverberates the very concept of the album; that of the overbearing dependence of society in technology and computers in turn reducing human contact and communication into automatic and heartless functions.

Review by The Musician
4 stars out of 4

Pros: Guitar work, vocals, subject matter, "Lucky", "Paranoid Android", all music

Cons: May be too depressing

Recommended: Yes

Bottom Line: A must buy. A great band's finest effort, which is probably the best album of the last thirty years, maybe, and I say MAYBE, of all time.

Great Music to Play While: Going to Sleep

Everyone has an opinion on this album. Because of OK Computer's critical and commercial success, many heads turned to see if it really was the 'best album of the nineties', 'the best music since you-know-who (the Beatles)', and if Radiohead really 'was going to save rock 'n roll'. Some people became diehard enthusiasts of the album (self included), some believed the album was overhyped and over praised, and some people were just indifferent. Everyone has a different standpoint though, and mine is that this is my favourite album of all time. Not what I think is the best of all time, but the album which I hold closest to my heart and soul. This is because I was able to really identify with it, and it was my first taste of really, really good music (previous buys were Weird Al Yankovic and Ace Of Base. Ugh). The fact that I even bought it in the first place still remains a mystery to me, because when I saw the album on the shelves of a music store, I was intrigued even though I hadn't even heard any of the songs on it, except thirty seconds of "Paranoid Android" which I heard on commercials, and I had never even previously heard of the British quintet named Radiohead. With all that in mind, I still ended up buying it even though I didn't know why.

The ironic thing about this album, which I live and die by today, is that I hated it to begin with. Save the fantastic "Paranoid Android" and the catchy "Airbag", I didn't appreciate the album at all. I wasn't interested in the slower tracks, because I was , when I purchased it, expecting an album full of "Paranoid Android"s. Despite this I kept on listening to the album, and it started to grow on me. And it grew. And grew.

There was a streak of about a couple of months where almost every night I would go to sleep listening to the album on my discman. When I was tired of hearing one song, I'd just go to another and they all equally impressed me once I learned to see the album for what it was worth: a beautiful collection of songs based on alienation of society and personal woes. It is a very personal album, and the lyrics are mysterious and can be applied to many ideas and concepts which are being debated as I write on Radiohead fan club sites. It is an album so good it's almost ridiculous. It has such a strong overall impression that for about a year I was obsessed with Radiohead along with countless other fans. It is depressing, but it is also delicate and lovely. Peaceful, yet chaotic. It's hard to even describe, because it offers something different for everyone. It is a journey through the mountains and valleys of the human soul, that leaves you stunned in the end. I've owned my copy since 1997, and it still amazes me today.

The album begins with Johnny Greenwood's electric guitar on the song "Airbag", which was written by lead singer Thom Yorke regarding his fear of cars and driving. It is one of the more rockin' tracks on the album, and contains great drums from Phil Selway and lead guitar from Johnny Greenwood. This is followed by the successful single "Paranoid Android", my favourite song on an album full of classics. It has been described as a "Bohemian Rhapsody" (by Queen) for the nineties, which is an accurate description of the six minute piece of music with an unusual structure. It is a few different movements in one song, but they blend together magnificently to make for a mind-blowing piece of music. It contains a three guitar attack from Thom Yorke's acoustic, Ed O'Brien rhythm, and Johnny Greenwood's brilliant lead guitar. Johnny's is one of the best guitar solos of all-time, and it is something that I have many times tried to imitate on my own guitar unsuccessfully. The explosive loud part is followed by a quieter acoustic section where Thom Yorke wails "Rain down, rain down, come on rain down on me". It's would be pretty depressing if it wasn't surrounded by such eccentric guitar playing. It's my favourite song on the album, but it's in tight competition with some others.

Next is "Subterranean Homesick Alien", a spacey venture that is euphoric and dream-like in it's delivery. Thom sings some beautiful lyrics in this song, who's voice is accompanied by some very lovely music. This is followed by the music that can be heard at the end of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet movie, and is appropriately titled "Exit Music (For A Film)". It starts off with just Thom and an acoustic guitar, and is utterly ravishing. Some great keyboard work is featured here (probably by the multi-talented Johnny Greenwood), but it really steps up when Phil Selway's drums come in. Great drumming, and it adds to the alluring climax of the song. This is immediately followed by "Let Down", an emotionally stunning track featuring such effective lyrics as "Transport. Motorways and tramlines. Starting and then stopping. Taking off and landing. The emptiest of feelings. Sentimental drivel. Clinging on to bottles. When it comes it's soso. Disappointing". It sounds discombobulating, but the unjointed lyrics combine for a powerful impression. It's another track with lyrics suggesting that Yorke is fed up with society and doesn't know where to turn. It features perfect backup vocals from Ed O'Brien, and solid drumming by Selway.

The second single of the disc is "Karma Police", which has delicious piano played by Yorke, as well as effective bass and vocals. It really unwinds in the end with synthesizers which is an unexpected yet effective end to the first half of the disc. The second half begins with a spoken word piece called "Fitter Happier" that is spoken by a computer. How fitting. It is more of the same alienated and frustrated lyrics, which works well for the album but is easily avoidable. Next is the rockin' "Electioneering", which is a great electric guitar piece complete with a cowbell. Lyrics are "I will stop, I will stop at nothing, say the right things, when electioneering, when I go forwards, you go backwards, and somewhere we will meet, riot shields, voodoo economics, it's just business, cattle prods and the I.M.F.". It's frustration all right, but this time directed towards the governments of the eight richest countries in the world, in which Thom has always been a public spokesperson on third world debt. Oh, yeah, the song has great guitars, bass by Colin Greenwood, and drumming too.

Next is "Climbing Up The Walls", which is, quite frankly, scary. It has a very grim impression, with spacey guitar, Thom's distorted vocals, beautiful strings, and spooky sound effects in the background. The only thing that really holds this track together is Selway's drumming. It also features a great horn solo. This is followed by "No Surprises", which always reminds me of an ice cream truck music. This is because it's features a glockinspiel melody played by Johnny Greenwood, as well as gorgeous guitar from O'Brien. Yorke's disenchanting lyrics are a strange yet comfortable fit to this adorable third single.

Next is "Lucky". It is, simply put, brilliant. It was a song written and released before any other songs on the album were completed, because it was included on a war victims benefit album. It was an immediate indication that OK Computer was going to be something special, and it is one of the finest tracks on the album. Actually, on a semi-recent survey of a couple hundred Radiohead fans, this track was chosen to be the overall favourite on the album, but not by much. It is a minor key electric guitar ballad impeccably played by O'Brien. This track features some mindblowing vocals from Yorke and a great mini-solo from Johnny Greenwood. It is a very moving piece of music. It is followed by the album closer, "The Tourist", which is the only song on the album written by Johnny Greenwood. It has lots of space within it, and contains fabulous vocals and guitar work. It crescendos masterfully with impressive guitars and keyboards until it lets you down easy with some quiet drums followed by a single note played by a glockinspiel to end the album.

Stunning and breathtaking in it's beauty, OK Computer is a masterpiece of masterpieces. It has fantastic song writing combined with expert group musicianship as well as a fine display of experimentation. It is emotional and personal, and also powerful and rockin'. This music is just so meaningful that it probably, given time, can win anyone over. It took me a couple of weeks, and I hated it at first. Now I'm a diehard Radiohead fan, and this album started it all. It is complex and experimental, but it never loses focus at any point. I can't even adequately describe this album, it really is one of those things that you'll have to learn about on your own. All I can really do is advise you that if you purchase this album, only then will you really be able to appreciate this masterpiece for what it is.

Best of all time? It just might be.

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Here's what others reviewers have to say:

"...OK COMPUTER - a stunning art-rock tour de force - will have you reeling back to their debut, PABLO HONEY, for insight into the group's dramatic evolution..." 4 Stars (out of 5) Rolling Stone 7/10-24/97, pp. 117-118

"...Unlike their majestic models U2, Radiohead take on techno without switching instruments or employing trendy producers....As with post-rockers Tortoise, Laika, and Seefeel, Radiohead have a fuzzbox or two and obviously know how to use 'em..." 8 (out of 10) Spin 8/97, pp.112-113



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