You Picked It! – Radiohead – ‘OK Computer’ – Album Review

Alright…You Picked It! And this one wasn’t really that close although The Fratellis gave Radiohead a run for their money for awhile, but in the end fell short. The winner was Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’ which I had never heard before. The votes were as follows:

  1. Radiohead – Ok Computer – 7 votes
  2. The Fratellis – ‘Half Drunk Under a Full Moon – 4 votes
  3. The Doors – ‘Morrison Hotel – 2 votes
  4. The Rolling Stones – ‘Sticky Fingers – 2 votes
  5. Parliament – ‘Mothership Connection’ – 1 Vote

Thanks to all for participating. The June choices will be up on Saturday!

RADIOHEAD – ‘OK COMPUTER’:

I will go ahead and put it out there that I am not a fan of Radiohead, but not listening to all their albums, it isn’t fair to say that I don’t like everything as I hadn’t heard everything. So I chose this as one of the “Never Heard Before Releases” and you guys picked it so it is time to see what all the fuss is about. ‘Ok Computer’ is the band’s third album and was released on May 21, 1997 and went all the to way #21 on the Billboard Charts and sold over 2 million copies in the U.S. alone.

The album was quite different from their previous records as it was very experimental for the band. The lyrics were not as personal and the sound saw them move away from their rock sound and go a little more eclectic or should I say electric as the band experimented with so many sounds and instruments and really pushed themselves stylistically and musically. Thom Yorke has described the inspiration of this album as Miles Davis’ album “Bitches Brew” which itself is so avant garde. This might not be the best album to start with if you are getting in to the band for the first time.

Since we are hear to discuss the music, let us jump right in with the opening track “Airbag”. I can say I’m not a fan of Yorke’s vocals as they are a little whinny, they drone on a little and aren’t very powerful, but there is also an interesting aspect to them in they way they fit with the music. There are some nice guitar moments and the drum beats giving the song an almost atmospheric vibe along with the keyboards. The song really is trying to go somewhere, but it does also drag out a little too long. “Paranoid Android” is musically brilliant. Jonny Greenwood has some fantastic guitar moments supported effortlessly by Phil Seway. The first half of the album is gratifying and exciting but they get too ambitious with the back half and reminds me why I find music from the 90’s to be depressing at times and vocally, Yorke sometimes depresses the hell out of me and I can’t get it in to his vocals. The album comes back to life and completely rocks the hell out and finally delivers its big shining moment. This is what i would like to hear more of. Can we make this an instrumental instead of with vocals?? Seriously, can we!!!

“Subterranean Homesick Alien” is a great title and is another astounding track. There are so many different sounds and it feels almost futuristic and alien even. But like the song before, I have a hard time with the solemn lyrical stylings of Yorke. I am a huge fan of the music as there is so much to enjoy and take in and absorb but the distraction of the vocals loses me at times. I can see why so many people like the band, but at the same time music from this era was so depressing. Music is my escape and I don’t want to feel worse after listening to an album. And when “Exit Music (For a Film)” comes on, I am ready to jump out of a window but since I am on the first floor, I don’t stand a chance of getting hurt. This is the type of song why I was never in to Radiohead. I wonder if the band Muse was inspired by this song because it could easily be theirs except theirs probably wouldn’t be as good, but that is another story.

Next up is “Let Down” (see what I did there). And this is far from a let down. It is a lighter fare than the gloomy “Exit Music”. It is almost a happy song…almost. If any of there songs had an actual chorus this would be the closest probably. It is pleasant enough before we dive in to two of their coolest tracks on the album. First is “Karma Police” which sees the band almost write a radio-friendly hit song. This one opens with some piano before the full band comes in with some pounding drums. This was a single actually so that much is true, but for me since their songs seem to lack the typical verse, chorus, verse structure…or if it does have that the chorus is not very catchy (none of their songs are). I need structure people!!

The album goes into a robot talking track called “Fitter Happier” which I pretty much skipped right over because the whole story the album is trying to tell is so lost on me since I have too much trouble getting to Yorke at all and actually listening to the lyrics. But we finally get to a song that completely rocks out with “Electioneering”. Finally some blistering guitars, some rock drumming and dang this is might even be a stadium rock anthem type song. It was the first song for me to realize they have a very British rock sound and I can get it in to that. Easily the best song on the album…for me that is.

“Climbing The Walls” has me doing just that as we go back to the stylings that make me not like the band. Depressing, somber music that drones on and on making me sadder and sadder as I listen. With the exception of a decent instrumental break that is actually really great, it loses me everywhere else. “No Surprises” is just that, no surprises or anything new to offer here. It is almost a ballad and does that sound a little like the Beach Boys in that guitar and glockenspiel.

“Lucky” is up next and was recorded almost a whole year before the rest of the album and it sort of feels it. There is a nice guitar solo moment and we don’t get many of these. But overall, this is another shining example of the depressing aspects of the band and why I am still not a fan. The final song on the album is “The Tourist” and is actually hauntingly beautiful. I actually enjoy Thom on this one as he seems to be putting more emotion and heart in to the vocals as his voice builds with the music. This is another choice for favorite song for me.

The album didn’t convert me to a Radiohead, but didn’t make me any less of one either. I can see what people like about it because I think musically these guys are super talented and did deliver an album rich with musical stylings and vibes that few can put together on tape (or digitally, however they did it). I don’t know if I saw Miles Davis in this, but I did feel like I was listening to Pink Floyd at times and that isn’t always a bad thing. I am still not a fan of Thom’s vocals and I don’t know if I will ever be. He does have some ver nice vocal moments though and trust me, I get the appeal, it is not for me though. 90’s music for me was too depressing and my musical taste leans to more of escapism and I want to feel better and not feel worse or spend time in an album that tells me how horrible life can be when I am living it and know that. There is no fun in these songs…and I want fun or at least be blown away by some great guitars and drums. My overall score would be a 3.0 out of 5.0 Stars and it is only because I can see why people like it, but I can’t go higher than that because I don’t really care for it that much. I will admit that this was a very hard album for me to write about because I don’t get the appeal completely and I didn’t want to dive deep into the lyrics. For that I think I would need another month or two to digest it all. For now, this is all you get.

44 thoughts on “You Picked It! – Radiohead – ‘OK Computer’ – Album Review

  1. I’ve never understood the appeal of Radiohead and why they are so revered. When critics ever mentioned Ok Computer, it is talked about as one of the greatest records of all time. Honestly, I just don’t get it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t either. I can see some appeal, but not for me though. It did get better the more I listened to it, but it would take a lot of listens to be the best ever. I don’t think I want to listen to it that much.

      Liked by 1 person

            1. Pearl Jam had better songs in my book! Nirvana was plain awful. For that era it was Soundgarden, Alice and STP…more rock based. Nirvana was noise. And Pearl Jam had songs here and there I liked.

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              1. I don’t think I’d mind Nirvana so much if Cobain didn’t make such a point to shit on every band that came before him if they sold more then ten records. He was a dick.

                Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, I’m a bit taken aback by all the Radiohead hate here. I would not call myself a big fan, as like you John, I’ve neglected to venture very deeply into their discography (I was basically a ‘singles’ guy until around 10 years ago, so if a song wasn’t a hit on the radio, I generally didn’t hear it). The only album of theirs I’ve ever listened to in its entirety is “A Moon Shaped Pool”, which is stunning. Your review made me give “OK Computer” a full listen, and I really like it. But then, as you know I’m a pretty big fan of alternative, experimental and art rock, so find these songs appealing. And I love Tom Yorke’s haunting voice, as I like male voices that register in the higher octaves. I’m also a big fan of Muse.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It isn’t hate so much as they don’t get it. They think Radiohead is overrated and I still do, but I see the appeal. It is just too depressing for me. I like to have fun with my music. And not a fan of his voice as you call haunting, I call whiny 🙂 But if we all liked the same thing, life would be boring.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I understand your rating and feelings about the record, but I’ll give it my 5/5 so we can average to 4/5, deal? 😉 I love this record completely. Not in a slavish way, but because it hit me just right when it dropped and it only got bettter, becoming one of my deserted island discs through years of play.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. A surprising but not so surprising (?) review, John. I love this album unconditionally. It came along and really got its hooks in me and remains a big one for me. Each song etched in. But I’m very much a fan of the band (though I still don’t care for Pablo Honey) and have been since The Bends caught my attention.

    Good on you for giving it a bash, though.

    Liked by 1 person

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