Monday, March 21, 2011
OK Computer revisited
This blog entry is going to be Captain Obvious for a lot of people so please forgive me and move on. Over the weekend, I was doing some work and listened to OK Computer in it's entirety on my headphones. I used to be a huge Radiohead fan but somewhere they became less important to me - probably around the time of Hail to the Thief. I've bought everything they've put out but the giddy heights of my fandom (OK Computer and Kid A) are far behind me. I still listen to them pretty regularly but they are so familiar, I can't say I take the time to listen to them that closely. So I was wholly surprised at how amazing and strangely fresh OK Computer sounds. Here are my thoughts on it from the weekend.
1. The production is gorgeous and somehow timeless. When I say timeless, I don't mean like classic rock but if they'd released this album in 1980 or 2010, I think it wouldn't have sound out of place. The production is incredibly dense - things like hidden backing vocals and percussion pervade the album but are so intricately bound into the texture of the music that they're easy to miss.
2. On the timeless thing, I was watching Lost in Translation recently and there was a lot of action that revolved around faxes which is indicative of the time. A lot of popular culture from about 1995-2004 became immediately dated by the rapid progress of technology and the internet. Think brick phones in Heat or any music video using special effects at this time. Thematically, sonically and visually, there is nothing to betray the time OK Computer was made.
3. One thing Radiohead get right more than any other band is the track order. OK Computer is an unbelievably fluid listening experience based on it's running order.
4. Speaking of running order, I always thought Electioneering was OK Computer's version of Ignoreland. If you don't know Ignoreland, it's the one rock track on REM's Automatic for the People which sticks out like dog's balls on a wedding cake making a perfect album near perfect. I always thought Electioneering was the weakest track on the album and more of a strong b-side. Re-listening, I stand corrected and now think it is marvelous triple threat of jangle, calamity and attack. Good stuff.
5. I know this accusation is often leveled at the band but the back end of OK Computer (No Surprises, Luck and The Tourist) has the marijuana tinged smell of Pink Floyd. I don't mean this is in a pejorative sense because if you weren't a glum teenager listening to Comfortably Numb over and over again while writing bad poetry then I don't think you're a real music fan. Anyhow, when I say Pink Floyd I'm thinking density, darkness and guitar sounds that sparkle like stars in a slowly darkening sky.
So, if you have a free day, I'd recommend giving OK Computer another listen through some good headphones because it really is as great as we all thought it was at the time. Kid A has long been my favourite Radiohead album but it was always closely followed by OK. I think the gap may be getting smaller.