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Long Play: Radiohead - 'OK Computer'

As part of our ongoing Long Play series, opbmusic is playing selections from Radiohead’s groundbreaking album ‘OK Computer’ all day throughout the broadcast on Tuesday, April 4th.

OK Computer by Radiohead

OK Computer by Radiohead

On Sunday night, Radiohead will play a sold out show at Moda Center in downtown Portland, Oregon. The Oxford, England natives could easily play 5 nights at the 20,000 seat venue. They won’t do that, of course. But they could. That’s the kind of fan devotion you have when you’re the biggest rock band in the world.

Although Radiohead’s rise was largely incremental and built on the impressive strength of their overall catalogue, you can pretty much pinpoint the impetus for that climb by looking back to the the release of their third album, OK Computer, almost twenty years ago. Back then, Radiohead were an up and coming rock band riding a wave of success generated from their sophomore release, The Bends. That album was an absolutely monster guitar rock record. So, it’s a bit of an understatement to say that OK Computer was not the followup album that many fans expected. In direct contrast to The Bends and the band’s debut record Pablo Honey, OK Computer wasn’t filled with instantly likeable guitar riffs. It was a moody affair and had no obvious pop songs. The album also saw the band experimenting with a lot of synths, electronic bleeps, keys, strings, and yes, glockenspiel. 

Contemporary critics didn’t quite know what to make of the record either. SPIN’s Barry Walters wrote in 1997:  

OK Computer is a high-wire act without a net. There is no obvious single, the lyrics don’t make immediate sense, most of the tracks are too slow, distorted, or weird for radio, and the whole thing sounds like nothing that sells. Yet this U.K. quintet’s audacious sonic sprawl is the most appealingly odd effort by a name rock band in ages.  

Although the record wasn’t an easy first listen for many, it was a grower and by the end of the year OK Computer was widely hailed as a (surprising) commercial and critical success. The album included standout tracks “Karma Police,” “No Suprises,” and “Paranoid Android,” but is essentially flawless from top to bottom. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say that OK Computer now has a legitimate claim as one of the greatest records of all-time.

Tune in to opbmusic on Tuesday, April 4th to hear this album played throughout the broadcast.

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