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

2020-05-15
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more

2020-05-14
Jorge Santana RIP – Jorge Santana, noted guitarist, leader of the band Malo and brother to Carlos Santan, died on May 14 at the age of 68. Jorge and Carlos worked together on a number of occasions, though Jorge's career was centered around Malo, solo work, and with Fania All-Stars. » Read more

2020-05-06
Florian Schneider RIP – Florian Schneider, one of the founders of the pioneering electronic group Kraftwerk, has died at the age of 73. Co-founder Ralf Hütter announced that his bandmate had passed away from cancer after a brief illness. » Read more

2020-04-23
Shindig Festival Goes Lock-Down – Here's what they're saying: It's A Happening Thing! The Shindig! Magazine Lockdown Festival. In our days of no large gatherings of people, maybe it's still possible to have a music festival. Shindig! Magazine is giving it a go with a multi-artist streaming extravaganza on Saturday April 25. » Read more

2020-03-24
Bill Rieflin RIP – The sad news reaches us today of Bill Rieflin's death. Rieflin was best known as a drummer in bands ranging from post-punk to industrial to indie-rock to progressive rock, including work with The Blackouts, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Swans, Land, and King Crimson. Rieflin had been battling cancer for several years, and succumbed to it on March 24. He was 59. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Minimum Vital - La Source – On this, their fourth outing in nine years, les frères Payssan and company continue moving boldly into new territory, while retaining the essence of the sound that makes them unique among...  (1993) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues