Header Ads

From The Indie Vault: Radiohead's Ok Computer.

The best hour in music. Ever.

OK Computer is the third studio album by English alternative rock band Radiohead, released on 16 June 1997. Radiohead recorded the album in rural Oxfordshire and Bath, during 1996 and early 1997, with producer Nigel Godrich. Although most of the music is dominated by guitar, OK Computer's expansive sound and wide range of influences set it apart from many of the Britpop and alternative rock bands popular at the time, and it laid the groundwork for Radiohead's later, more experimental work. While Radiohead do not consider OK Computer to be a concept album, its lyrics and visual artwork emphasise common themes such as consumerism, social disconnection, political stagnation, and modern malaise.

OK Computer reached number-one on the UK Albums Chart and marked Radiohead's highest entry into the American market at the time, debuting at number 21 on the Billboard 200. The album expanded the band's worldwide popularity, and has been certified triple platinum in the UK and Canada, double platinum in the US and platinum in Australia. OK Computer received considerable acclaim at the time of its release, and frequently appears in retrospective best album lists compiled by music critics or based on listener polls.

After the success of Radiohead's second album, The Bends (1995), the band decided to produce their third album themselves, although a number of producers, including Scott Litt, were offered a position to work on the album. They were encouraged by recording sessions with engineer Nigel Godrich, who had assisted John Leckie in producing The Bends and had produced several Radiohead B-sides.Bassist Colin Greenwood said "the only concept that we had for this album was that we wanted to record it away from the city and that we wanted to record it ourselves." The band prepared for the recording sessions by buying their own recording equipment, though they consulted Godrich for advice on what to acquire. Godrich eventually outgrew this role and became co-producer on the album.

After the stressful tour in support of The Bends, the band took a break in January 1996 and expressed a desire to change their musical and lyrical style from that of their previous album.Drummer Phil Selway said that "The Bends was an introspective album... There was an awful lot of soul searching. To do that again on another album would be excruciatingly boring." Singer Thom Yorke said "The big thing for me is that we could really fall back on just doing another miserable, morbid and negative record lyrically, but I don't really want to, at all."

In early 1996, Radiohead started rehearsing and recording OK Computer in the Canned Applause studio, a converted shed near Didcot, Oxfordshire. It was the band's first attempt to work outside a conventional studio environment. Colin Greenwood said, "We had this mobile-studio type of thing going where we could take it all into studios to capture those environments. We recorded about 35% of the album in our rehearsal space. You had to piss around the corner because there were no toilets or no running water. It was in the middle of the countryside. You had to drive to town to find something to eat."

In order to avoid the tension that accompanied the recording sessions for The Bends, EMI did not impose a production deadline on the band. The band still ran into problems which Selway blamed on their choice to produce the album themselves. All five members had differing opinions and equal production roles, with Yorke having "the loudest voice", according to guitarist Ed O'Brien. The band eventually decided that Canned Applause was an unsatisfactory recording location, which Yorke attributed to its proximity to the band members' homes, and which guitarist Jonny Greenwood attributed to its lack of dining and bathroom facilities. In spite of these difficulties, the band had nearly completed recording four songs—"Electioneering", "No Surprises", "Subterranean Homesick Alien", and "The Tourist"—when they left Canned Applause. The band had already recorded "Lucky" for The Help Album, a 1995 charity album. At their label's request, the band took a break from recording to embark on a 13-date American tour, opening for Alanis Morissette, where they performed early versions of several of their new songs. During the summer 1996 tour, one of the new songs, "Paranoid Android", evolved from a fourteen-minute song featuring long organ solos, to one closer to the six-and-a-half minute OK Computer version.

Radiohead resumed their recording sessions in September 1996 at St Catherine's Court, a historic mansion near Bath owned by actress Jane Seymour. They made much use of the different rooms and atmospheres throughout the house; the vocals on "Exit Music (For a Film)" featured an echo effect achieved by recording on a stone staircase, and "Let Down" was recorded at 3 AM in a ballroom. The isolation from the outside world allowed the band to work at a different pace, with more flexible and spontaneous working hours. O'Brien said that "the biggest pressure was actually completing [the recording]. We weren't given any deadlines and we had complete freedom to do what we wanted. We were delaying it because we were a bit frightened of actually finishing stuff." Yorke was ultimately satisfied with the quality of the recordings made at the house, and later stated "In a big country house, you don't have that dreadful '80s 'separation'. ... There wasn't a desire for everything to be completely steady and each instrument recorded separately." O'Brien was similarly pleased with the recordings, estimating that 80% of the album was recorded live and noted "I hate doing overdubs, because it just doesn't feel natural. ... Something special happens when you're playing live; a lot of it is just looking at one another and knowing there are four other people making it happen."

Radiohead returned to Canned Applause in October for rehearsals, and completed most of the album during further sessions at St. Catherine's Court. By Christmas, they had narrowed down the tracklisting to 14 songs. The album's string parts were recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London in January 1997. The album was mastered at the same location, with mixing taking place over the next two months at various studios around the city.

OK Computer was recorded in the lead up to the 1997 general election. It was thus seen by critics as encompassing public opinion through its "despairing-yet-hopeful tone" and themes of alienation. Yorke said his lyrics had been affected by reading a book about the two decades of Conservative government which were just coming to an end in 1997, as well as about factory farming and globalisation. However, in interviews Yorke expressed little hope things would change under the corporate-controlled "New Labour" government of Tony Blair. With the approach of the year 2000, many people felt the tone of the album was millennial.

Some critics have credited OK Computer with "killing" 1990s Britpop as within a few years of its release, the dominant style of UK guitar pop had become slower and more melancholy. Many of the newer acts used similarly complex, atmospheric arrangements. The band Travis worked with Godrich to create the languid pop texture of The Man Who, which became the biggest-selling album of 1999 in the UK. Others have credited Radiohead with beginning a mainstream revival of progressive rock and ambitious concept albums, though the band denied their affiliation with the genre. Radiohead described the prevalence of bands that "sound like us" as one reason to break with the style of OK Computer for their next album, Kid A. When asked by MTV interviewer Gideon Yago what the band thought of "bands like Travis, Coldplay, and Muse ... making a career sounding exactly like [Radiohead] did in 1997", Yorke replied "Good luck with 'Kid A'!".

Several rock bands which later became popular, ranging from Coldplay and Bloc Party to TV on the Radio, have said they were formatively influenced by OK Computer—TV on the Radio's debut album, for instance, was titled OK Calculator. Additionally, the album's popularity paved the way for British alternative rock bands such as Muse, Snow Patrol, and Keane. Classical and jazz musicians such as Christopher O'Riley and Brad Mehldau have performed material from OK Computer, and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen said "When I heard 'OK Computer,' after five minutes I said, 'I actually get this. I understand what these people are trying to do.' And what they were trying was not so drastically different from what I was trying to do."

1. "Airbag" – 4:44
2. "Paranoid Android" – 6:23
3."Subterranean Homesick Alien" – 4:27
4. "Exit Music (For a Film)" – 4:24
5. "Let Down" – 4:59
6. "Karma Police" – 4:21
7. "Fitter Happier" – 1:57
8. "Electioneering" – 3:50
9. "Climbing Up the Walls" – 4:45
10. "No Surprises" – 3:48
11. "Lucky" – 4:19
12. "The Tourist" – 5:24

Enjoy.... "Karma Police."

No comments

Powered by Blogger.