This is one of those rare albums that can be listened to as a single piece of music.
Jon Lusk 2007-04-25
As an occasional admirer of this band, I’ve never quite got my head around the fact that OK Computer is considered by many (British) music fans to be one of the Greatest Albums of All Time. On its release, I listened to it just once and, unmoved, moved on. Ten years after its release, OK Computer’s slow-growing appeal has finally worked its magic. I still wouldn’t rate it as a desert island disc, but it is undeniably a great album, well deserving of the ‘classic rock’ tag.
Recorded during the dying days of Conservative rule in the UK, perhaps it was the despairing-yet-hopeful tone and the theme of alienation that captured the Zeitgeist of the time. Intelligent without being intellectual, and political (Electioneering) yet never literal or linear enough to be hectoring, it also must have represented a sophisticated alternative to mainstream Britpop, which by then had lost much of its spark. The ‘prog rock for the nineties’ tag that some critics lumbered it with doesn¹t really stand up, even if the three-part structure and ambition of “Paranoid Android” does have more than a whiff of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” about it. But contrasted with the muscular economy of the opening “Airbag” and the wonderfully evocative, saturated soundscape of “Subterranean Homesick Alien”, it makes perfect sense as part of a seamless sequence that runs all the way (via tunes as memorable as “Karma Police” and “No Surprises”), to the emotionally bruised finale of “The Tourist”. This is one of those rare albums that can be listened to as a single piece of music.
The dense instrumental textures never seem over-stuffed and are wide-ranging and often thrilling, driven by Phil Selway¹s meaty drumming, layered with growling guitars and the varied use of keyboards, synthesisers and electronic treatments. Tom Yorke’s dread-filled voice will get on some peoples’ nerves. It sometimes rises into a trademark falsetto and is often partly buried in the mix, but when it emerges, there are none of the usual boy-meets-girl clichés. And for that, we must be thankful.