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Radiohead - OK Computer CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

4.05 | 989 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Finally, I'm getting around to reviewing this thing.

"OK Computer" begins with "Airbag", one of the best songs on here. The drumming is brilliant, and stays consistently so throughout the whole album. Of interest to progheads is the heavily delayed guitars, which are so washed in effects they sound like keyboards or an autoharp, plus the cello and instrumental buildup at the end. This is pure alternative/progressive, an alt rock song transformed with electronic effects and orchestral shadings to create one of the best tracks ever written.

But that's not the best of it right there. "Airbag" segues directly into "Paranoid Android", the track that bugs prog purists to this day. It's sheer progressiveness cannot be denied, as it features three distinct sections, a reprise, and even a short passage in 7/8. The first section opens with a strangely alien acoustic section backed by morracas and other strange percussion. It brings to mind a scene in the deserts of Roswell at night, for some reason. This is helped along by strange, eerie keyboards and haunting lead guitar work. Suddenly, the theme changes, and it slowly moves into the second section as it dispenses with the Latin percussion and then introduces the electric guitar, finally building up into full-on metal and enters 7/8 time. Then everything crashes and it goes into a somber, choral section which features a Mellotron. This goes on, until the second theme is reprised a final time before it all ends.

The next song is "Subterranean Homesick Alien," a beautiful space ballad song that once again brings to mind the alien desert highway at night. While not overtly progressive, it still shows tendencies, such as its haunting theme of escapism and hopelessness and the strange, melancholy instrumentation.

"Exit Music (for a film)" is another fairly good track, although I really don't like it a whole lot. It features a haunting acoustic guitar strumming at the beginning, slowly building as they add a mellotron, then the whole band enters. Darker and spookier than any other song here, it is actually recorded live, but the crowd stays utterly silent throughout the whole thing.

The main guitar theme for "Let Down" is in 5/8. The song actually reminds me of GENTLE GIANT's "Just the Same", because of the conflicting 5/8 guitar and the rest in 4/4 ("Just the Same" has 6/8 against 7/8). It's very lovely - the synthesizers at the end can make me weep.

"Karma Police" shows the first drop in the prog-o-meter, although it still retains some traces, and is in sort of two parts. A bit too mellow for my tastes, it mainly plods along, with it's overt theme taken from "1984" and the thought police. The second half has an abrupt change in the opinion of the singer's lyrics, like he's been brainwashed or something.

"Fitter Happier" divides the album clean it two. Everything from here on is not quite the same quality as the first songs on the album. The track itself is essentially a poem read by a computer with a piano solo in the background. The poem is strange, conformist, almost hopelessly airtight. Like something that would be playing on the telescreens in the book "1984".

"Electioneering" is a straightforward rock song with some heavy cowbell. Pretty cool hard-rock music.

"Climbing the Walls" is an atmospheric, dark song that brings to mind a maze in some strange warehouse. Utterly creepy from start to finish. At the end, it builds up then is washed away by electronic effects and strange atmospheric noises, organ, and what sounds like a haunted cuckoo clock.

"No Surprises" is a simple, simple, simple, upbeat yet strangely cynical alternative tune that kind of grew on me over time. Quite nice.

"Lucky" is a slow rocker that washes right over you. Thom sings "pull me out of the aircraft..." - it can give you chills.

"The Tourist" definitely grew on me - a ploddingly slow number in compound waltz time (9/8, but not at all like Genesis' 4+5 classic) with occasional bits of 3/8 tacked on. The chorus is great - "Hey man, slow down..."

Overall, no, it's not full-on prog. There's tendencies, but whatever. It doesn't really matter. In any case, it's a very good album nonetheless, final three tracks aside. Their next album, "Kid A" is far more experimental and "progressive", but "OK Computer" is still a masterpiece of alternative meets progressive, at least for the first five songs.

penguindf12 | 5/5 |


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