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OK Computer

Release Date: 07.01.97
Record label: capitol
Genre(s): Movies, Film Scores, Musicals, Etc.


Fitter. Happier. More Productive.
by: bill aicher

Ok Computer is Radiohead's third album since their debut with Pablo Honey, and boy have they progressed through the years.  It is no wonder they were nominated for the 1998 Grammy Award for Album Of The Year and won the 1998 Grammy for Best Alternative Music Performance with this album.  Imagine, a rock band... a great rock band.  They go forward into the realm of techno/electronica without sacrificing their instruments. Instead they get the desired effects with the guitars and bass and drums, as well as adding a hint of synthesizer and sound effect samples.  This album is where music is headed, and there is no better band to lead the way than Radiohead.

Although from my above description, it may sound like just a techno album, that is not the case.  It is firmly grounded in rock.  There is no techno beat or overuse of samplers - these are merely added for effect in a few spots on the album.  The majority of the electronic sound is from the style in which the guitar is played.  Thom Yorke's voice is a haunting, mysterious one, that fits Radiohead's musical style to a T.  This is one band in which the greatness of the music lies not in just one single member, nor with the entire band.  Instead what we have here is each single member, working together with a certain texture, to achieve a climax of musical piety, with Thom Yorke's cracked-throat voice in the center of it all.

The songs on the album are not all your basic 4-minute pop rock tunes like those being pumped out by the rest of the music industry currently. "Paranoid Android", the first single from the album (you may remember the music video with the little cartoon), is an epic musical masterpiece.  It includes tempo changes, mood changes, wild (but not gross) shifts in dynamics, all topped off with the fits of anger and melancholic depression we can expect from singer Thom Yorke.  This song in itself is a modern symphony.  These days, it is difficult to find all of the aforementioned styles on one cd, let alone one song.  Better yet, Radiohead succeeds in pulling it off beautifully in just over 6 minutes.  Keep in mind, this is just one song on the album - there is an another 47 minutes to go. 

About halfway through the album we are greeted with an eerie track which probes the value of our lives and where we place our values.  This track, "Fitter Happier", includes no actual vocals, but instead a computer voice reading off phrases over a piano led background track.   It ends with this phrase "fitter, happier, and more productive.  a pig, in a cage, on antibiotics".

Yorke's lyrics are directed towards a a look at the future.  Not only in the musical sense, but in a philosophical style as well.  He delves into the minds of the listener, grips their psyche, and questions its worth before moving onto his next patient - himself.  This is done in a less-straitforward, more artistic style which Yorke excels at.  It makes the listener think, and the meaning behind them relies on the listener above all else.