OK Computer


Capitol Records, 1997


REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


This may have happened to you before. An album that you have waited for two years to come out finally is in the stores. While you're at the store, you may have enough money to buy a second CD that you've heard good things about, but don't know too much of the band's past work. You take both home, and for some ungodly reason, you wind up listening to that unknown CD for a solid week.

That's the case when I picked up Bjork's Homogenic album last week. I also picked up Radiohead's newest album, OK Computer. Bjork was my primary reason I was at the store. Oddly enough though, OK Computer has only left my 5-disc changer to go to work. If you have read the reviews of this album so far, you can understand my bewilderment. The album is virtually devoid of hooks. Most of the songs don't have a chorus. So, what's left to grab your attention on the first listen?my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

If you like some amazing guitar work, that would answer the last question. Johnny Greenwood and Ed O'Brien create some of the freshest sounds east of the Atlantic Ocean. Nirvana may be an influence in their soft to loud dynamics of songs like "Paranoid Android," but Radiohead manages to avoid the cliches that have sunk so many alternative bands this past half of the decade.

While feedback is dominant on much of OK Computer, it's not corrosive. "Exit Music (For A Film)" is minimalism at its finest. While Thom Yorke whispers into the microphone, very little performing forces are there to take your attention away from him.

OK Computer is definitely an album that will take a couple of listens to digest. "No Surprises," "Lucky" and "Subterranean Homesick Alien" all are songs that appear to have no structure to them, but just when you're about to resign yourself to obscureness, Radiohead will throw in an absolutely catchy riff or Yorke will sing something that you can't get out of your head. "I'll take a quiet life / a handshake / some carbon monoxide," Yorke sings on "No Surprises."

No surprises is the exact opposite of what you will discover on OK Computer. Smack in the middle of the album, "Karma Police" seeps out to be one of the most beautiful songs of this decade. "For a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself," Yorke sings. The chorus isn't really a chorus in that song; it comes towards the end and totally catches you off guard. The beginning starts off with a simple drum beat and Radiohead's '90s sense of what's new, but the chorus is straight out of the late Beatles era.

With all the talk about Oasis and Blur duking it out for the "best British band" title, Radiohead comes off as a great dark horse. Oasis may brag that they will be the next Beatles, but their last album only proved that that boast is only in the mind of the Gallagher brothers. While Be Here Now is simple treading the safe waters of pop, OK Computer manages to boldly seek out new avenues of rock music in the last moments of this century. It's one of those albums that you'll know what you were doing the first time you listened to it 15 years from now.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A


© 1997 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.