Thursday, October 18, 2012

162. OK Computer. No. Just No.

Album: OK Computer
Artist: Radiohead
Genre: Rock
Year: 1997

  1. Airbag
  2. Paranoid Android
  3. Subterranean Homesick Alien
  4. Exit Music (For a Film)
  5. Let Down
  6. Karma Police
  7. Fitter Happier
  8. Electioneering
  9. Climbing Up the Walls
  10. No Surprises
  11. Lucky
  12. The Tourist

162? Seriously? One Hundred and Sixty two? Ok Computer? The album that sits on top of most "best of the nineties" lists is no better than 161 other albums? The biggest album by one of the biggest bands in the world can't even break into the top 100?

Sometimes this list is just mystifying.

For my money OK Computer is the best album released in the 1990's. I can't think of a release from that decade which is better than this and I say that fully aware that Dylan released an album in 1997.

To be honest I'd be raving about this album even if the only good songs were Karma Police and No Surprises both of which are magnificent ballads. Not even my local busker who plays both tracks badly and at a loud, amplified volume that's clearly audible from my bedroom can dull my love of these songs. They sound fantastic on the album, they're brilliant when done live and they were even great when I used to sing them regularly in a tiny karaoke bar in rural Japan.

I'd even rave about it if the only good track was Paranoid Android. There are lots of bands who have managed to get an album on the top 500 based on one classic song and a lot of filler and Paranoid is better than the stand out tracks from many of the albums here. Lots of bands have tried to pull off a tempo changing epic song and failed dismally. Starting a track with one mood and then switching through several others before you finish is harder than it looks and it's easy to stuff up royally. Many groups have tried and ended up looking like they've just smooshed together a bunch of half-formed ideas into one half-formed whole. But Paranoid Android is an outstanding rock and roll song which sounds greater than the sum of its bits and has you shouting along even though you might occasionally catch yourself hearing the words coming out of the mouth and wondering what the hell you're actually singing (gucci little piggies? The Panic, the Vomit? Unborn Chicken Voice in my head?)

Paranoid Android, Karma Police and No Surprises would be enough for me to regard this as one of the great albums on their own. Even if the rest of the album was entirely forgettable I'd still remember this album as brilliant. I'm delighted to report however that the filler tracks on OK Computer are easily good enough to emerge from the shadow of its outstanding moments. Every track is brilliant but I'd put forward Electioneering as one of the overlooked gems of the nineties. If you gave Electioneering to most other bands at the time they would have released it as a single and built an album around it, Radiohead stick it towards the tail end of their CD where it kicks in as a fantastic surprise.

Taken as simply a set of songs, OK Computer is a brilliant album, but observed thematically it can offer so much more. Essays have been written about it's thematic intention and what it has to say about the world at the time, the world of the future and the state of UK politics. Regardless of what you take away from it you can't deny that something has deliberately been added to turn this disc into something more than just "stuff we had lying around the studio at the time." Radiohead were moved and want to move something in you as well.

There is only one thing wrong with this album; only one fault I can find and only a tiny niggle I have which is this: what the hell is it doing at number 162 on this list! In what warped and demented parallel universe is this not better than a live Kiss album? Or the debut from the B-52's? Or anything by Steely Bloody Dan!

I'm angry now and need a lie down.

Influenced by: Modern life
Influenced: Coldplay, Muse and others

Highlight: Paranoid Android... no Karma Police... no no No Suprises.
Lowlight: Fitter, Happier More Productive, I still don't skip it though.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Coldplay and Starsailor paved the way for this band, but that doesn't mean it is any good."

-I think this is trolling of the most obvious kind.

So are you OK with this or not? Let me know below.

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