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Leaving their legacies: “OK Computer”

8.8

From an array of breakthrough ‘90s alternative rock albums, Radiohead’s landmark album “OK Computer” was chosen to be archived in the Library of Congress alongside other “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” works of music. Radiohead’s “OK Computer” steps away from the band’s previous grunge style and instead uses a new, diverse range of soothing instruments that ironically supplement this album’s cynical, underlying messages. The band’s successful experimentation with controversial themes in “OK Computer” earned this 1997 album its landmark position in musical history and influenced generations of alternative rock bands to come.

From an array of breakthrough ‘90s alternative rock albums, Radiohead’s landmark album “OK Computer” was chosen to be archived in the Library of Congress alongside other “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” works of music. The controversial themes of “OK Computer” and the band’s successful experimentation with new instrumentals earned this 1997 album its landmark position in musical history and influenced generations of alternative rock bands to come.

Radiohead’s “OK Computer” deliberately steps away from the heavy, grunge style of its previous work “The Bends” and instead uses a new, diverse range of soothing instruments that ironically supplement this album’s cynical, underlying messages.

In “Let Down,” the repetitive droning of Thom Yorke’s voice expresses the listless, dry freedom people experience when they have nothing left to lose. “No Surprise” also has an idle, lazy mood, developing the idea of lethargically wasting time by using the lulling, slow effects of the glockenspiel and acoustic guitar. Radiohead creatively experiments with instruments to develop this hopeless mood in both songs, successfully evoking existential crises and forcing listeners to contemplate the very meaning of their lives through introspective lyrics. The use of instrumentals in the album also artistically links the gloomy mood of the song to its meaning.

On the other hand, “Fitter Happier” and “Paranoid Android” are easily the defining tracks of “OK Computer.” These two songs artfully summarize the entire album’s core themes in an unorthodox, haunting fashion. In “Fitter Happier,” a synthesized voice drones on and on about the routine monotony of “improved” modern life. According to the song, people in the future will be more productive but will also be forced to give up their emotions and humanity. Paired with melancholic background melodies, lyrics calling people “[pigs] in a cage on antibiotics” give harsh yet realistic insight about what society was like in the 1990s and where it was going. “Paranoid Android” also skillfully pairs instrumentals with the most intense themes of the album.
Three distinct melodies seamlessly transition into one another and emulate the separate sections of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The synthesized voice is used again and repeats “I may be paranoid, but not an android,” adding to the band’s critique of shallow mainstream culture. The layers of unique electric buzzes, guitar chords and dry vocals in this song undoubtedly laid the foundation for Radiohead’s later work and inspired future generations of alternative bands. Ultimately, “Fitter Happier” and “Paranoid Android” powerfully defined the future way of life in the 21st century and took the alternative music beyond just singing about angst.

Even today, “OK Computer” remains unprecedented and unmatched in musical innovation. Themes about the consequences of consumerism, emotional isolation and social alienation are sprinkled throughout the album to create a masterpiece that elicits a compelling, eye-opening realization in listeners. These ideals, which were progressive during Radiohead’s early era, make the album one of the most insightful and radical albums of the 1990s. “OK Computer” revolutionized the alternative rock industry by exploring new instrumentals and deeper themes, and it will definitely mesmerize listeners with a remarkable, thought-provoking experience.

By Natalie Jiang, Staff writer
Photo courtesy of iTunes

The Breakdown


Sounds/Beats
10
Voice
7
Lyrics
8
Mood
10


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