Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#558 in the Series) is Radiohead, Ok Computer (Parlophone (UK), Capitol (US))
At many points of this record a listener might get the idea the band was trying not to put out a breakthrough record that would make them popular, but the final product in total is one of the records I will bring with me to the moon.
There is a lot more guitar and quite a bit more rock on 1997’s, OK Computer, but the production in the end is satisfying for many reasons. Though the lyrics are nearly impossible to decipher, the vocals of Thom Yorke, whether singing or talking are musical. From the notes of the very first track “Airbag” to the second part of the song, the slow melodic acoustic and trippy sound the band gives is unmatched by them before or after OK Computer. Some songs are slow then fast, some fast then slow, but all give the idea this was cutting edge and is hard to compare anything like it to.
“Let Down” has one of the best bridges you will ever hear in a rock song as the drums and vocal carry you into a song with a pop beat you didn’t expect.
“Karma Police” is a stunning use of the acoustic guitar and piano that blend Yorke’s vocals into a perfect harmony, and when the song ends with a record scratched by a needle, “Electioneering” picks up with an amps turned all the way up rock punctuated by fast and hard drum playing.
“No Surprises” drips with sugar its pop so sweet, but before the melancholy sets in, “Lucky” hits you between the eyes with some real depressing sounds that somehow end up not making anyone sad (This song was released a couple years earlier as a single to promote War Childs charity’s The Help Album).
Just as “Lucky” ends and leaves you wanting more, “The Tourist” closes out this 12 track masterpiece with a gorgeous reprise of many of the textures and sounds already heard but differently arranged.
This record actually received the Grammy for Best New Alternative Album (didn’t expect Grammy to be so smart) and was nominated for Album of the year. At the time it was well received critically, but since then has been almost dismissed as “their guitar album”.
If you are not a fan of Radiohead, but you do like rock, check this out. I wanted a refund for their next few albums I bought as they went in a completely different direction after this. For my taste this was the best the band ever sounded and though “Karma Police” was the most commercially successful song, all of them are pretty great and will sound good even if all you have to play them on is an ok computer.
— John Driscoll, Chicago, Illinois, USA
All songs written by Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Ed O’Brien, Colin Greenwood and Phil Selway, except where noted.
- “Airbag” – 4:44
- “Paranoid Android” – 6:23
- “Subterranean Homesick Alien” – 4:27
- “Exit Music (For a Film)” – 4:24
- “Let Down” – 4:59
- “Karma Police” – 4:21
- “Fitter Happier” – 1:57
- “Electioneering” – 3:50
- “Climbing Up the Walls” – 4:45
- “No Surprises” – 3:48
- “Lucky” – 4:19
- “The Tourist” – 5:24
- Thom Yorke – vocals, guitar, piano, laptop
- Jonny Greenwood – guitar, keyboards, piano, organ, glockenspiel, string arrangements
- Ed O’Brien – guitar, backing vocals
- Colin Greenwood – bass guitar, keyboards
- Phil Selway – drums