Artists sometimes evolve. Every now and then you hear music that is ahead of its time and, because it doesn’t blend in with the current pop culture, no one seems to notice. You get a blend of pop with real emotion mixed in, and the mainstream just doesn’t “get it.” It’s the sort of artistry that generally never receives the proper due until well after they’re gone.
Radiohead is probably one of the most undervalued and eclectic bands out there. They kicked off their career with two solid albums, but the sound wasn’t necessarily unique or something that you’d recognize as a signature sound. They saw some really good radio play, and even sold a lot of records—but the fame and buzz just wasn’t there. Around that point, the band had to decide what to do. Either keep making good music that blends in, or go a completely different route and get noticed.
OK Computer came out in May of 1997, and if you were a fan of Radiohead before this record, you probably picked it up on that spring day, put it in the CD player…and wondered what in the heck you just heard. All of the sudden you heard this ambient, electronic sound, that had never been part of their arsenal. One magazine referred to it as the “end of the millennium blues.” People compared it thematically and in style to Pink Floyd’s masterpiece ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ – mostly because of the break in style and the storytelling the album accomplished.
The surprising part of all the acclaim and popularity was the album’s overall theme. It was written while lead singer/songwriter Thom Yorke was contemplating the world and our fast-paced society. It discusses rampant consumerism, social alienation, emotional isolation and political discontent. Not exactly the types of lyrics you’d expect to hear on Top 40 radio. But the way it’s laid out, the experimental sounding nature of the record, combined with this densely layered sound – it’s simply put, something you just cannot put down.
Personally, I love it when albums tell a story. As the listener, it makes me feel so much more engaged to what I’m listening to. It’s almost like watching a good movie and being completely immersed for the entire duration. Yorke said, “On this album, the outside world became all there was… I’m just taking Polaroids of things around me moving too fast.” He explained that, “It was like there’s a secret camera in a room and it’s watching the character who walks in—a different character for each song. The camera’s not quite me. It’s neutral, emotionless. But not emotionless at all. In fact, the very opposite.” What a great summary of what this album is.
In terms of critical acclaim, this album is up there with the best in history, winning plenty of 5-Star ratings, A+ ratings and 10 out of 10’s. It changed the perspective on the band. All of a sudden their previous two albums were also great, and everything they put out in the future would be recognized as being semi revolutionary. I love just about everything they do. Their identity changes so much record to record, and the experiments always seem to pay off. I can’t think of an album more worth $5 dollars, and it probably is a band you don’t know (but you really should give them a shot!).