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Old 06-01-2013, 03:13 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Radiohead - OK Computer



I’ve never understood the fascination nearly everyone appears to have with Radiohead’s OK Computer (1997). Compared to the usual extremely positive review this album gets, my review is quite negative. In reality, though, I see my view of this album is being pretty fair. I don’t say it’s a “bad” album simply because I’m annoyed at the praise it receives. That wouldn’t wouldn’t be the truth, because it’s certainly not bad. But is it good? At times maybe, but it doesn’t approach greatness and it certainly doesn’t approach being the greatest record of all-time (or of the 90s, or of 1997, to be frank).

If I wasn’t aware of the tremendous praise this album receives, I’d literally never be able to guess it. For something so universally-acclaimed, the listening experience is thoroughly ordinary. Forget the complaints that Thom Yorke sounds “whiny”, or that it’s “too depressing”. My criticisms are not as superficial as that, and such complaints really should be ignored. My main problem is that there is a lack of substance to this record. Basically, this is slightly more intelligent pop music for people who have a bit more interest in music than your average listener. Comparisons to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon are fairly well-justified in that both records are not particularly interesting from a creative standpoint, but have the kind of blend of musical competence and style that makes them extremely popular with the mainstream music press (and therefore with their readers).

After all, both are exceedingly accessible records. Unless a person isn't accustomed to "different" sounding music at all (likely the type of person that complains about Yorke's vocals or the album's "depressing mood") it can’t be said that OK Computer ever delves into any sort of challenging territory. While that’s not a requirement for a record, I do think it’s a requirement if the record is to be taken seriously as a true work of art, a masterpiece, and one of the “greatest ever”. There are records from the 60s that are likely to surprise you more than this album ever could. And if your mind is open, those are the type of surprises that win you over and reward you the most in the end, I think. Albums like Piper at the Gates of Dawn, The Velvet Underground & Nico, and of course Trout Mask Replica from the 60s; or Can's Tago Mago, Faust's self-titled debut (or even So Far or Faust IV, which are more accessible), or Pere Ubu's The Modern Dance from the 70s. These albums do things that surprise the listener, but it's not a gimmick (as opposed to some of the studio gimmickry Radiohead's guilty of here), rather they do this in pursuit of a purer form of expression. They of course may turn you off at first (or forever), but I think the beauty is in that potential to truly reward you.

So, in conclusion, OK Computer is by no means a bad record. It’s a totally competent, easily-accessible pop album that is sort of a victim of its own incredible success. Yes, it's bothersome that it frequently overshadows what I consider to be true masterpieces. But I don’t “hate” it, and I don’t complain that the singer sounds whiny, or that the lyrics are “depressing”, or anything like that. I just don’t think it’s done anything to deserve its status, and at least at the time, it doesn’t sound like Thom Yorke did either: “We write pop songs … there was no intention of it being ‘art’.”

6.5-7/10
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Last edited by streetwaves; 06-01-2013 at 04:55 PM.
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Old 06-01-2013, 07:47 PM   #2 (permalink)
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OK Computer for me is an easy 9 before "Fitter Happier", about a 5 or 6 including and after
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Old 06-02-2013, 02:18 AM   #3 (permalink)
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^ my feelings exactly. The band were apparently listening to many of what are considered "classic albums" (Dark Side, Sgt. Peppers, Bitches Brew, even Can), so I think that kind of tone is evident. A lot of albums don't work out when the intent is to mirror some past artist's opus.

Though the songwriting isn't my favorite of theirs, I do think their concept was dead-on for the time (or still is) and is one a lot of artists haven't really tackled. Some of their best songs are on this album as well, but the whole album just doesn't stack up to later work, or even the Bends really.
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Old 06-02-2013, 04:43 PM   #4 (permalink)
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While I don't necessarily agree with your opinion here, I still concede that this review was very well-written and insightful and I really, really hope you write more reviews!
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Old 06-02-2013, 06:16 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Old 06-03-2013, 07:07 PM   #6 (permalink)
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At first I hated "Fitter Happier" as well, but now I avoid skipping it and actually like it. As strange as it is, it ties the album together thematically.

OK Computer is an easy 10 for me. There are just too many classic songs on it for the rating to be any lower IMO. "Let Down" especially: what a tune.
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Old 06-04-2013, 01:10 AM   #7 (permalink)
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"Let Down" especially: what a tune.

Agreed
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Old 06-04-2013, 04:43 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I forgot to mention that I personally like "Fitter Happier" and is definitely essential to the album's concept but I stand by all else stated.
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Old 06-11-2013, 10:26 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Def pretty epic album...I remember taking a ton of pills and drinking and getting all loopy and then laying in bed with my head phones on and this being one the albums i used to space out too !!!
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Old 06-12-2013, 03:34 PM   #10 (permalink)
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This review looks like it has scaruffi fingerprints all over it (not necessarily a bad thing), although i do disagree with your assessment of what constitutes a "true work of art". Albums that are "challenging" will differ completely from listener to listener in that some won't find Can or Pere Ubu's sound challening at all. Saying something is challenging without context could easily just mean an album you didnt like right after the first listen, which could apply to Ok Computer and you.

In other words I doubt that bands like Neu! or Faust would be challenging for you in the sense that they would "turn you off at first" anymore. It doesnt mean you like them any less or that they are any less great.


In regards to OK Computer itself I dont think its amongst the greatest albums ever but it is still really good. I think i rate it similar to OP in the 7/10 range. I can certainly see why its so popular though. It has this sort of a desensitizing feeling to it that might be the perfect album to portray the internet age. It feels more like a refusal to admit guilt than depression. Like an overweight conscience remaining silent. You can do all kinds of terrible things over the internet while hiding in anonymity that it might not even seem like youre doing anything wrong at all. This is what i see in OK Computer. Its the soundtrack to a young internet and all of its loyal followers.
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