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Radiohead - OK Computer CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

4.05 | 989 ratings

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Symphonic Prog Specialist
3 stars I felt it was time for me to review a Radiohead album, especially after the turbulence created by their inclusion in Prog Archives, turbulence with which I contributed giving a negative opinion, so I will try to be fair with a band that is growing in me since a few weeks ago.

I know some people will get angry but if I want to make a decent review must start being honest, so I have to say I don't believe Radiohead is a Progressive Rock (understood as a genre) band but it's also fair to say that Ok Computer is good album that deserves to be here as much as late Styx or Asia if you're not a purist of the genre.

I find some Pink Floyd influence in OK Computer but this doesn't make them prog' because the contribution of alternative bands as Nirvana is stronger, starting with Thom Yorke who has that same "I-don't-care-about-anything-because-life-sucks" style of the late Kurt Cobain, but also must say that as well as Curt he has a very nice vocal range, sometimes a bit boring for his lack of variation but can be listened.

Don't expect radical changes except on "Paranoid Android" (The closer they get to prog), the songs are mostly close to Indie even when sometimes is easy to find some Space Prog' influence or even that classical alternative sound so common in the late 90's, but the main characteristic of this album is that you can almost always predict how each song will develop from the first chord, this is not bad "per se", it's only a common factor I find in most tracks..

But I would like to focus on some very positive aspects, Jonny Greenwood and Ed O'Brian create a very dark an atmospheric sound that I find very interesting, Collin Greenwood has very strong basslines, especially in Airbag, Pete Selway is a decent drummer, but in some moments he sounds almost as a drum machine.

The album starts with "Airbag", a strong song with a great guitar intro and a powerful bass, the vocals as in every song are dark and depressing but the chorus helps very much to the sound, in some moments reminds me of Oasis with a touch of early REM, good song.

"Paranoid Android" is IMO the best song of the album, starts with a soft oriental atmosphere in which Thom Yorke's voice is absolutely perfect, when this section is starting to get too predictable especially for the drums, the band progressively makes a change towards classic rock with heavy guitar explosions in which you can notice the skills of the band, and then again the song morphs into a very melodic and dark passage with complex and well developed vocal work, mixing low chorals and high backing vocals (probably mellotron or other digital variation) that add interest and prepare the listener for the powerful chaotic closing section where every member is simply perfect, the most progressive approach of the band in this album.

Many progheads will accept this song for the length, but in my case I couldn't worry less about that, the point is that Paranoid Android is an imaginative song with constant changes and really unpredictable, this is the kind of sound and development I would expect from a prog' band.

The next track "Subterranean Homesick Alien" works as a relief after the first two songs, nothing spectacular but interesting, in this track the guitar work is not particularly good with only a few nice works in the louder passages.

"Exit Music (For a Film)" is an absolutely melancholic acoustic track, not only Yorke's voice but the semi choral background is totally depressing, I like the song because darkness fascinates me and the presence of the haunting Mellotron is incredibly beautiful. Lovely song but not recommended if for Prozac patient or those who have suicidal tendencies.

"Let Down" sounds as taken from an Oasis album, calmed, soft, with interesting guitar work, the music gently flows from start to end with almost no interruption or surprise, nice but not great, perfect for a hit single.

A beautiful piano introduction announces "Karma Police" another very good track, different to all the previous, very rhythmic but at the same time melodic, a very nice and surprising change, especially because the piano goes in crescendo creating a sensation of expectation not always present in Radiohead and also because it's the first song in which the drumming is very accurate.

"Filter Happier" is a great but wasted idea, they pretend to be innovative and experimental but this has been done previously since the 60's and 70's by bands like Pink Floyd but of course with much more originality, the piano background is pretty decent, but that synthetic computer voice is simply horrendous, even when important for the concept because gives us an idea of dehumanization, I believe there were better alternatives to work the concept without sacrificing the musicality.

"Electioneering" is a rock oriented track, loud but not very imaginative either, seems to prepare the listener for a climax but becomes boring and lack of interest because they never reach a peak, Radiohead keeps loosing the interest of the listener as the minutes advance, just noisy but nothing else.

"Climbing Up the Walls" gives a first impression to be more on the point, but it's only a mirage, again Radiohead falls in the same mistake of the last song, becoming repetitive to the maximum extent, I have the impression that after Karma Police the band looses in great part the obscure but melodic atmosphere prevalent in the first six songs.

After this track I am more convinced that Radiohead should never be included in the Archives, mostly because one of the main characteristics of Progressive Rock is the ability to create variations and changes, something that the band seems to lack of..

"No Surprises" as the name appears to indicate is another monotone track, even when in this case they seem to have recovered at least partially the melodic sense, but that isn't enough to re-gain the attention of the audience or to pretend to be something more than an alternative band.

The next track "Lucky" starts with a nice guitar work but again Thom Yorke's voice is absolutely boring, after a short passage of mainly vocals we can find a first musical explosion that indicates this song is going to be strong and the impression is right, a very good track that could be much better if Yorke would simply gave the impression that he enjoys singing.

The album ends with "The Tourist", a very spacey song obviously influenced by Pink Floyd, the vocals sound better than in most of the album, as if Yorke would have noticed that a bit of life doesn't hurt anybody. The nostalgic atmosphere is present as in the first half of the album but you can feel Thom adds a bit of enthusiasm, another good track perfect choice to close the album.

Now comes the hard part, How to rate this album? From a Progressive Rock perspective wouldn't be too high, because Ok Computer is not a prog' album and even when some people hate labels, this is a progressive web page, but this would also be unfair, because the album is pretty good, especially the first six tracks and The Tourist, the lyrics are provocative and the concept is well developed.

So I believe that 3 solid stars would be fair, and don't believe it's a low average, because I gave the same rating to some really good progressive albums. I enjoyed Ok Computer very much but honestly don't think it's essential.

Ivan_Melgar_M | 3/5 |


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