OK Computer – RADIOHEAD – 1997

OK Computer is supposedly a landmark album in Alternative Rock. Someone even wrote a book about it. Luckily, I’m not swayed by any of these things, because I’ve heard very little of Radiohead till now (yes, Creep). Anyway, I gave this a good listen, and I have a few things to say about it, so read on.

A literal encapsulation of lyrics themes, this.

A literal encapsulation of lyrical themes, this.

I love the concept behind the composition of this piece. Even though its clearly a guitar driven band, there is a sense of coherence and teamwork to the sound which other one-instrument led bands don’t. Structures of individual songs don’t seem to be a fixed thing. They keep shifting and moulding themselves into inexplicably shaped pieces of music, and its not entirely clear whether the music follows the lyrics or vice-versa. Also, I do think that this is the very first commercial cyberpunk album, with lyrics embracing vaguely technology related contemporary/futuristic themes, that seem quite fit with a rather dystopian vision of the future. Movie buffs will instantly connect with what I’m saying, once I tell them that it reminds me of Blade Runner and The Matrix.

This technology theme seems to extend to the overall sound of the album, which is by all means one of the best incorporations of electronica into rock music that I have heard. Ever. The mellotron in “Exit Music” is just soooooo bleak. Bleaker still is the articulation of the lyrics. There is quiet desperation and tiredness in Yorke’s voice. I was quite ready to say that it gets drawling and irritating, but amazingly, it sounds sustainably tolerable throughout the album. Being someone who plays an instrument, I find this album full of moments, both melodic and rhythmic, when I go, “Hey, that’s a great idea!”

Despite all this high praise, I have certain problems. Radiohead hasn’t forgotten to experiment successfully. What they have forgotten, crucially, is groove. This album has no swing. At all. It might not be what the band was looking for, but for me, that ends up deducting vital points off the listen-ability of this album. I don’t remember shaking my head to the music even once. The best analogy I can draw is this; the lack of groove in a song is like having an immensely luxurious car without an engine. Quite literally, the music doesn’t move you. Further, there is literally no mood alteration in this album. It’s like having sopping wet evenings for a month. Even if you like the rain, it’s bound to eventually depress you.

I have a friend. He likes being sad, in a world-weary sort of way. I wholeheartedly recommend this album to him. That’s the only sort of emotional outlet this album provides. Otherwise, while it shines an incorporation of electronica into rock music, its incomplete as an emotional experience. And to someone who has been trying hard to unreservedly like some aspect of Alt Rock, this doesn’t sound right.

El Bajista

One thought on “OK Computer – RADIOHEAD – 1997

  1. Pingback: Smile From The Streets You Hold – JOHN FRUSCIANTE – 1997 « thatdoesntsoundright

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