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Radiohead - OK Computer CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

4.05 | 989 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Popular reviewer George Starostin said that Pink Floyd's greatest legacy lay in the way they presented their music and not so much in brilliance purely from a melodic or harmonic standpoint. It is not surprising that Radiohead are sometimes called the modern day Pink Floyd because their greatest strength too lies in the way they present their songs and not necessarily always the melodic/harmonic substance (though they can have their bright moments in that respect too). The way their songs are built and paced is what they draw their identity from. Their overall songcraft is what establishes in the view of some, including yours truly, a few degrees of separation between them and most popular rock acts of the 90s, including prog oriented groups like Opeth or Dream Theater. And, like Pink Floyd, they also invest a lot of effort in carefully producing the album to the end of extracting the most value from the studio album format.

The first indication of Radiohead's greatness is when I attempt to describe their style on this album. It defies quick and precise classification. I could loosely describe it as Pink Floyd updated for the 90s but that would not capture the exact nature of the music. Pink Floyd influences are most evident on Exit Music (For a Film) and Lucky but Karma Police has much more to do with the Beatles. The chords on the chorus even resemble Sexy Sadie, no less! And does Airbag already evoke the Krautrock elements that would be more dominant on Kid A?

Thus, the music on OK Computer covers a broad range of styles while still retaining a necessary degree of consistency to make the whole album a cohesive listening experience. Radiohead proceed to stamp their identity on the music on two counts. One is the wide array of guitar textures employed on the album that make them quite unlike many popular 90s groups. Radiohead are skilled enough to write music that accommodates tones as varied as the grungy distortion on Paranoid Android and the soft, clean figures on No Surprises and a lot in between (Subterranean Homesick Alien, for instance).

The other, which I alluded to in the beginning, is their strength in building and pacing their music. Even though they rarely get too far-out in terms of structure, Radiohead's compositions stand out because they are crafted with so much purpose and every moment counts. Exit Music or Tourist are great examples of how music that is apparently slow moving holds your attention by virtue of how well it is developed. This is also one of the reasons they evade quick classification. They avoid choices that may be generic or cliched and their approach to constructing musical moments is what truly reveals their originality. Even though you can hear where some of the pieces of this puzzle come from, you know you haven't really heard something quite like this before and that is an elusive achievement in the prevailing climate in rock music.

Lastly, I had also observed that Radiohead do not necessarily fail to shine in the melodic department. Some of the melodies are great and quite infectious and supply the hooks to Radiohead's otherwise cold, inscrutable world. The coldness comes through in the lyrics as well as Thom Yorke's bitter, whiny style of vocal delivery. But the melodic hooks form an irresistible counterpoint to the cold vocal tone and draw you into the music, creating once again a distinct experience you haven't always come across in rock. Managing a blend of conflicting elements is a mark of great composition and in a broad sense, Radiohead do achieve this to great effect on OK Computer.

Barring Fitter and Happier, this is a very consistent album. Considering its harmless length of under two minutes and the overall significance of this album and the band for modern rock music, that will not stop me giving it all five stars. A masterpiece of modern rock music.

rogerthat | 5/5 |


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