"OK Computer " Review by: Mikyla Bethune
In the season of hopefulness a great way to kick it off is with an album that exemplifies that very thing. “Ok Computer” is the third studio album made by the indie rock band, Radiohead. The album was released towards the tail end of the 90s to much critical acclaim. It was completely new and unorthodox for the band Radiohead. This record was completely unheard of in the rock scene at the time it was released. It was one of the biggest, more extravagant experimental releases for a mainstream band in the 90s. However, this album, not only on a technical standpoint but also on a lyrical standpoint, is quite profound.
The opening track begins with a rather explosive instrumental introduction. Airbag talks about a man being born again and almost dying only for an airbag to save his life. It’s quite extravagant. However, this does not imply the next two songs are anything to scoff at. Both Paranoid Android and Subterranean Homesick Alien both tell a saddening story of the main character who is constantly plagued with delusions, fears, isolation, and depression. It describes the desolate life of a man that knows that he is slowly losing his mind and his humanity along with it. In a way, the narrative on these two tracks could be compared to Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. In this novel, the main character is isolated from others and is reduced to a recluse. This can also be seen with songs like Lucky, Let Down, and even The Tourist, which all echo the same sentiment along with the longing to be accepted or even just noticed. With lyrics such as, “It's gonna be a glorious day I feel my luck could change.” it exemplifies hope for the future in our protagonist’s mind.
The remaining tracks on this album are nearly the exact opposite of the other songs. They are devoid of hope, the exact thing the other tracks were yearning for. Instead the characters in the song are more convinced and accepting of their terrible fate. The main characters in the songs and the narrative of those songs seem to just want to lie down and rot. It is as if they wholeheartedly agree that their situation is awful and that there is no way to fix it. In a way it could be compared to the ending of 1984 by George Orwell, where the main characters have no more fight left in them and they decide to simply exist in their horrible reality. Songs like Karma Police, Exit Music (For a Film), Fitter Happier, Electioneering, Climbing Up the Walls, and No Surprises all emphasize this very thought. While it is depressing, this overwhelming despair and lack of hope tends to be overlooked. Due to the songs’ sequence and ordering within the album, the listener would not really know the song was all that saddening unless they were actively looking at the lyrics while listening.
The theme of hope or hopelessness is sprinkled in throughout this album. It shows both perspectives, and still manages to be entertaining even 21 years after its release. “OK Computer” is not only a staple for music production and lyricism for Radiohead, but also for indie rock and rock music in general. This record truly raises the bar for good experimental music and not picking it up this holiday season would be a big mistake.