Radiohead — OK Computer
(Capitol CDP 7243 8 55229 2 5, 1997, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 1998-02-01We can all think of examples of a progressive band over time starting to play music more in the mainstream (Genesis, Yes, pick your example), but how many times have we seen a mainstream band, as their career evolves, do the opposite? It may be too soon to tell if Radiohead is headed that way, but OK Computer in many ways works as a progressive album. To a listener grounded in the prog-rock idiom, it sounds reminiscent of mid-70s Pink Floyd and late-70s Hawkwind/Hawklords, though not in a derivative way. And it also manages to sound thoroughly modern, with the technological sheen that is only now becoming possible. The song “Paranoid Android” serves as a nutshell portrait of the album’s style. At over six minutes, it’s quite long for a single. It starts quietly with an acoustic guitar and a high, waifish vocal. Electric guitar provides slightly wah-wahed fills a little reminiscent of Dave Gilmour. As a background to a chorus section, a strange voice speaks in the distance. The second verse is a little louder than the first, and after the second chorus, a new riff is introduced on acoustic guitar. The riff is joined by an electric piano. After a bit, heavy electric guitars come in on the riff. Sometimes the four-beat pattern switches to seven under an almost atonal guitar solo. This is followed abruptly by a hymn-like keyboard section with vocal aahs which builds over the course of two minutes and adds a countermelody. Then the heavy riff crashes in again, doing the four and seven thing, for a brief loud section to finish it up. With this album, Radiohead has upped the level of complexity (in composition, arrangement, and concept) attempted by a post-Nirvana “alternative” pop band. The market will determine how widely accepted the experiment will be; but I’ll wager that many old prog-heads like me will find it challenging enough to bear repeated listening.
Related artist(s): Radiohead
Ennio Morricone RIP – Famed composer Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. The creator of scores for more than 500 movies, some of his works have become the most recognizable sounds in the history of cinema. His soundtracks for Sergio Leone's Westerns made from 1964 to 1971, are iconic landmarks in film music, but he also composed for dramas, comedies, and other genres. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2016 for The Hateful Eight. » Read more
Keith Tippett RIP – One of the giants of British jazz has left us. Keith Graham Tippetts, known professionally as Keith Tippett, died today at the age of 72. His work from the late 60s into the 70s and beyond includes some of the greatest jazz produced in the UK, and stands as an impressive oevre to this day. » Read more
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more
Jorge Santana RIP – Jorge Santana, noted guitarist, leader of the band Malo and brother to Carlos Santana, died on May 14 at the age of 68. Jorge and Carlos worked together on a number of occasions, though Jorge's career was centered around Malo, solo work, and with Fania All-Stars. » Read more