Thursday, January 17, 2013

Radiohead- OK Computer Revisited

It's a little strange that I don't own OK Computer on vinyl, since I make it a point to get copies of all of my Favorite Albums Ever on vinyl. While I don't have all of them yet (due to rarity or price or their not having ever been pressed on vinyl) I do find something about the permanence of the format comforting. For instance, I have my Mom's vintage copy of The White Album and it still sounds great almost 45 years later. OK Computer is definitely the sort of thing I want any future daughters and/or sons to get from me as hand-me-downs, largely because it meant a lot to me in my youth but isn't as monolithic to me these days.

That isn't to say that I like OK Computer any less than I did when I first fell in love with it a few months after its release. If anything, I appreciate it even more now from a hardcore, knowledgeable music fan's standpoint because I'm intimately familiar with many of the record's acknowledged influences, like Can, Miles Davis's electric fusion era, and DJ Shadow. Sure, it doesn't sound as groundbreaking and fresh as when all its tricks and mysterious textures were mindblowing to my high school ears, but it's reached the stature and iconic status of many Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd albums. They always show up on lists of “best albums ever”, they have lots of great stories about the recording sessions (often collected in books), they have famous cover art, and seemingly as soon as they came out, you began to see all sorts of bands being accused of ripping them off.

The final quality they share in common is that they're all simultaneously overrated and underrated at the same time. I believe I saw this idea on, but the basic gist is that a band like the Beatles is so beloved by the masses, so already covered to death, and so praised that they're kind of overrated. I mean, lots of other greats bands and music out there, folks! Yet that doesn't diminish either the impact they had during their release or their enduring influence and listenability.

Depending on your familiarity with music, you may take a few spins to warm up to OK Computer. I wouldn't say it's a matter of someone being too young or too old, or of the album being still-too-ahead-of-its-time. Moreso that not every song is rocking and/or catchy, by which I mean, I think it's fair to call OK Computer an art rock album. It sometimes rocks and it mostly arts. I don't think it's quite the instant classic, immediate favorite for most people like your Dark Side Of The Moon's or Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band's. You may take to it right away, or you My point is, by the time you're on the 300th or so listen, as I probably am by this point, you'll still find it a treat to listen to. 'Paranoid Android' may just be my most played song ever (the video is certainly my most watched video ever), and I love the way 'Subterranean Homesick Alien' pulls off the trick of using psychedelic sounds without seeming cheesy or dated.

Hmm, so what else? Well, imagine you found out Pink Floyd released an EP shortly after Dark Side Of The Moon, and it had b-sides and outtake material that was arguably as good as the album itself. Wouldn't that be awesome? Hey presto, Radiohead did just that with the Airbag EP. I think it's actually referred to as a “mini-album” on the U.S. version, but that isn't fair since it's not strictly new material and it includes a song from OK Computer. In fact it's the first song on both releases, so it's a little jarring when you listen to the EP and there isn't that little computer beep that segues into 'Paranoid Android' as on the album.

Lastly, any hardcore Radiohead fans out there who haven't watched the OK Computer-era documentary, Meeting People Is Easy, owe it to themselves to track down a copy. I have a well worn VHS tape of it that I paid way too much money for at Media Play (RIP) in 1999. I enjoy popping it in every now and then to remind myself of that desperate time period I spent listening to everything I could find by them, random website MP3s and sketchy Napster downloads my only sources, waiting for the next release. This was the time between the Airbag EP and Kid A's release in late 2000, which was only two years at the most but felt like eternity to an obsessive fan.

Where that obsessive fan went, I can't really say. Allow this, then: I still dig OK Computer. I wish I had it on vinyl. Or wax cylinder.

1 comment:

thevoid99 said...

Of my all-time list of favorite albums, this one is #2 behind the Stone Roses debut.

I remember hearing Paranoid Android for the very first time when it came out w/ that video.

It was really unlike anything that was happening at the time. It sounded so new and fresh. Then I heard the album and... I fell in love with it. I still love the album though I don't listen to it very often these days.