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.