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Radiohead - OK Computer CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

4.05 | 1071 ratings

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4 stars OK Computer is that rare thing - a landmark recording and quite possibly the most important 'rock' record to come out of Britain in the 90s. After reaching critical and commercial highs with the polished indie rock of The Bends, Radiohead decamped to a house belonging to the actress Jane Seymour to indulge in some location recording for their third album. Several months later they emerged a changed entity and a new force in 'progressive' rock music. Weary of reliance on a standard guitar/bass/drums format Radiohead set about deconstructing and reconstructing their songwriting process. The chief protagonist here is surely guitarist Jonny Greenwood. A classically trained violinist, Greenwood stripped back the guitar parts and delbed into a huge arsenal of obscure and rarely utlised instruments - from 'prog' mellotrons to theremin, to the even more obscure ondes martinet as well as experimenting with loops, samples and a battery of weird and wonderful effects. However, Thom Yorke too pushes his own boundaries, even going so far as to begin the process of deconstructing his singing style, retreating from the melodic strength of The Bends and beginning to find a voice that reaches its full expression (a cracked, often broken but never less than passionate style) on the following Kid A and Amnesiac (where indeed, his stated wish was not to have melodies at all and to completely restrict the vocals) The sound palette the band came back with on OK Computer stretches from glockenspiels to analog synths, mellotron strings and choirs to stuttering speech synthesisers. After the lovely Airbag, the real tone is set with the simply breathtaking Paranoid Android which opens with a fluttering acoustic guitar riff and then develops into a brittle, furious guitar assault before giving way to a coldly beautiful coda of choir and harmony vocals. It's a cascade of ideas, noise, skill and wilful experimentation. A triumph which sets the tone for the whole album. From the wryly jaded Subterranean Homesick Alien, the claustropobhic tenderness of Exit Music (For A Film) to the unsettling obsession of Climbing the Walls and the chiming guitars of Lucky on to the final plaintively beautiful The Tourist, OK Computer is an album that will offer endless reward. Spiralling towards a decade since its release it has none of its revelatory impact. It has not aged a bit and sounds as fresh now as it did on its first release. Indeed, in that way it is as relevant, current, and apposite, both musically and lyrically, as Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, an album it is perhaps tied to in terms of lyrical theme. Some may doubt its prog credentials and it is true that it bears few of the hallmarks of anything coming out of England in the early '70s, but for those with a more expansive and inclusive world view, who will note it's debt to Can, Faust, Kraftwerk, as well as host of other influences, this is simply an essential purchase. It is a five-star album, which I will have to drop a star from simply because it may not entirely appeal to the ardent '70s sound' enthusiast.
arcer | 4/5 |


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