Exposé Online banner

Radiohead — OK Computer
(Capitol CDP 7243 8 55229 2 5, 1997, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 1998-02-01

OK Computer Cover artWe can all think of examples of a progressive band over time starting to play music more in the mainstream (Genesis, Yes, pick your example), but how many times have we seen a mainstream band, as their career evolves, do the opposite? It may be too soon to tell if Radiohead is headed that way, but OK Computer in many ways works as a progressive album. To a listener grounded in the prog-rock idiom, it sounds reminiscent of mid-70s Pink Floyd and late-70s Hawkwind/Hawklords, though not in a derivative way. And it also manages to sound thoroughly modern, with the technological sheen that is only now becoming possible. The song “Paranoid Android” serves as a nutshell portrait of the album’s style. At over six minutes, it’s quite long for a single. It starts quietly with an acoustic guitar and a high, waifish vocal. Electric guitar provides slightly wah-wahed fills a little reminiscent of Dave Gilmour. As a background to a chorus section, a strange voice speaks in the distance. The second verse is a little louder than the first, and after the second chorus, a new riff is introduced on acoustic guitar. The riff is joined by an electric piano. After a bit, heavy electric guitars come in on the riff. Sometimes the four-beat pattern switches to seven under an almost atonal guitar solo. This is followed abruptly by a hymn-like keyboard section with vocal aahs which builds over the course of two minutes and adds a countermelody. Then the heavy riff crashes in again, doing the four and seven thing, for a brief loud section to finish it up. With this album, Radiohead has upped the level of complexity (in composition, arrangement, and concept) attempted by a post-Nirvana “alternative” pop band. The market will determine how widely accepted the experiment will be; but I’ll wager that many old prog-heads like me will find it challenging enough to bear repeated listening.

Filed under: New releases, Issue 14, 1997 releases

Related artist(s): Radiohead

Latest news

2018-09-05
Krautrock Documentary Seeks Funding – The next installment of the Progressive Warriors documentary series will focus on the vast body of music that falls under the banner of "krautrock." As most of our readers will know, previous films have tackled RIO and the Canterbury scene, as well as what we might call "mainstream" prog rock. » Read more

2018-07-31
Tomasz Stańko RIP – Tomasz Stańko, one of the greats of Eastern European jazz, has died at the age of 76. Stańko's career started in Krzysztof Komeda's quintet, where he contributed trumpet from 1963-1967, when he formed his own group. He worked extensively with Edward Vesala, Don Cherry, Zbigniew Seifert, Chico Freeman, Howard Johnson, Cecil Taylor, and many others. Many of his recordings have been released by ECM, an association that began in the mid-70s. » Read more

2018-07-09
Soft Machine Set to Release New Music – It's been 50 years since The Soft Machine changed the face of music with their first album. Their blend of psychedelic rock and jazz was unique, and while the band went through many changes before disbanding in 1981 — by which time there were no original members remaining — they remained an innovative force with a style all their own. » Read more

2018-07-01
7d Surfaces Happy Rhodes Back Catalog – We've covered singer Happy Rhodes before, both for her solo work and recently with The Security Project, but her 11 albums have been hard to track down. Until now. 7d features high-quality downloads of all her releases, and several of them are also available on CD. » Read more

2018-06-25
Fred Chalenor RIP – We have news of another sad passing in the world of creative music. Bassist Fred Chalenor, whose creativity featured on albums by Tone Dogs, Caveman Shoestore, and many more, died on June 23, 2018 after a long battle with Alzheimer's. Tributes have poured in from the many musicians and fans whose lives he touched. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Rush - Snakes and Arrows – When a short audio sample of "Far Cry" was posted on Rush's web site it led to excited and hopeful premonitions of a return to the kind of prog rock the Canadian trio had pioneered on...  (2008) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues