photo & text by nacrowe
i know people get all hyperbolic when talking about BRITISH ALTERNATIVE ROCK band RADIOHEAD and especially their seminal record OK COMPUTER (), but for me discovering this band was a highly EMOTIONAL and TRANSFORMATIVE affair. in my way this record expanded what i thought a rock band could get away with sonically and conceptually so i think of it more in the vein of KING CRIMSON or PINK FLOYD rather than influences like R.E.M., THE CURE or THE SMITHS or even peer bands like OASIS, NIRVANA or THE SMASHING PUMPKINS. RADIOHEAD are very much their own animal.
its kinda crazy to think back on now, but i bought OK COMPUTER on a school trip in SWITZERLAND back in middle school. the french department at the international school i attended in NIGERIA had an annual trip to FRANCE and SWITZERLAND as an extended part of the curriculum. i believe i bought at a FNAC in GENEVA as i have clear memories of listening to this record on a bus when we arrived in nearby LEYSIN as part of the trip. past students from NIGERIA attended the LEYSIN AMERICAN SCHOOL which was small but had jaw-dropping views of the SWISS ALPS as well as access to sports facilities that were built as part of a failed attempt at pursuing the 1994 OLYMPIC GAMES that eventually were awarded to LILLEHAMMER in NORWAY. so that is the backdrop.
i can recall listening to the sweeping soundscapes of "SUBTERRANEAN HOMESICK BLUES," "PARANOID ANDROID," "ELECTIONEERING," "NO SURPRISES," and "AIRBAG" while gently falling asleep to unobstructed views of the SWISS ALPS while careening through mountain roads on a bus headed north to ZURICH. i have an intense sense memory of just being overwhelmed by the visual and aural beauty of it all. and its not just those celebrated lush, sweeping guitar tones that drew me in, even the down-tempo, mellow tracks like "LET DOWN," "KARMA POLICE," "EXIT MUSIC (FOR A FILM)," and "LUCKY" are all deeply affecting in no short order due to the incredible vocal talents of frontman THOM YORKE whose voice belied a palpably INTIMATE sense of all-encompassing unadulterated PAIN, RESENTMENT and UNDERSTANDING all at the same time.
thematically the record is committed to understanding the extent to which the modern individual is deluged with information and ultimately DEHUMANIZED through industrial processes of AUTOMATION and COMPUTER INTEGRATION to more and more of our daily lived experience. to me this record is sonically and lyrically concerned with that uneasy yet inevitable integration. its beyond ahead of its time in that regard as the internet was still relatively in its infancy back in the late 1990s. more than 20 years later it feels like a clarion call about the potential political, cultural and interpersonal DISRUPTION that awaited us all in this new digital global order. its fascinating.
if you are unfamiliar with OK COMPUTER, definitely stop reading this and go listen to it now. it is that rare celebrated record that lives up to the hype and even surpasses it. required listening in my opinion.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
its funny that one of the worst sounding rooms in live television (STUDIO 8H) is also arguably one of its most enduringly iconic stages. one of those truly odd paradoxes.
i often wonder what affect on the culture a SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE appearance has in modern culture, similar to that of a ROLLING STONE cover. maybe it is just an anachronism of a cultural moment that has long since passed us by when we have a never ending feed of audio-visual content available on command from devices in our pockets.
not to sound too nostalgic, but i do remember a time during the 1990s and early 2000s when there was a sense of a shared experience each week when you stayed up to watch SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and see who was hosting and playing that night. it was exciting.
nowadays not so much. why is that?
photo manipulation by nacrowe
FROM THE BASEMENT was a live performance series produced by NIGEL GODRICH (RADIOHEAD, ROGER WATERS, BECK, R.E.M.) that lasted two seasons and aired intermittently on SKY TV from 2006 to 2009. shot and recorded without an audience, the bare studio room was an open canvas for the artists and directors, including SOPHIE MULLER, to present their music in manner they more or less had control over.
notable performances include those by PJ HARVEY, THE FALL, QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, THUNDERCAT, THE KILLS, RADIOHEAD, CSS, SONIC YOUTH, FLEET FOXES, THE WHITE STRIPES and JARVIS COCKER of PULP
definitely worth checking out, especially for the quality of the live mixes, which honestly is a bit of a forgotten and under-appreciated art. enjoy.