Almost two years after the release of their critically-acclaimed
album, The Bends, England's Radiohead have completed their self-produced
third album, OK Computer. The album is tentatively set for release in
Japan in mid-May, and in the UK and U.S. on July 1.
The album (ATN
obtained an advance copy of the Japanese version, which may differ slightly
from the U. S. release) is a striking departure from the group's previous work.
OK Computer offers up a fresh sound from the band that became famous for
the 1993 angst-ridden anthem, "Creep" (off their debut album, Pablo
With the exception of a few songs, OK Computer displays
the more mellow, dreamy side of Radiohead. "Exit Music (for a film)," a
bare-bones acoustic number, has the timeless characteristics of U2's "One."
Singer/songwriter Thom Yorke's beautiful, almost feminine vocals crack with
solid emotion as he pleads, "Breathe, keep breathing/ Don't lose your
nerve...sing us a song/ A song to keep us warm."
If the album has a theme,
it would appear to be politics. "No Surprises," a beautifully-dark ballad,
directly calls for a revolt: "Bring down the government/ They don't speak to
us." "Electioneering," a furiously quick, guitar-dominated track, has Yorke
yelling, "You can't fool us!"
Some unexpected twists...
Some unexpected twists make the album hard to categorize.
"Fitter, Happier" contains samples of author/professor Stephen Hawking, who
speaks through an electronic voice synthesizer. There are no vocals from Yorke,
just music with Hawking speaking on the ways to a fitter, happier lifestyle.
Yorke's own vocals on many of the songs are hard to understand. Radiohead
appears to have in some ways fashioned OK Computer after R.E.M.'s debut
album, Murmur (Radiohead are self-professed R.E.M fanatics and spent two
months as openers for the band). When Murmur was released, some critics
nicknamed the album "Mumble" after Michael Stipe's vocal style which made it
impossible to make out the lyrics.
Yorke has said in interviews that he
and his band mates wanted to make something that would not only enthrall
listeners but confuse them. It appears will accomplish that goal when the album
is released. For instance, "Subterranean Homesick Alien (Uptight)," the third
track on the album, has nothing to do with Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick
Blues." It sounds nothing like Dylan's breakthrough "rap" song, and there is no
mention of the word "subterranean," "homesick" or "alien" (or any reference to
Dylan's song) in the four-minute number. This kind of head-wrecking is typical
OK Computer is laced with thick piano chords and
electronic dubs. Not easy listening (particularly the first this), the album is
a brilliant, gorgeous piece of work.
The full track listing (for the
Japanese version) is: "Airbag," "Paranoid Android," "Subterranean Homesick
Alien (Uptight)," "Exit Music (for a film)," "Let Down," "Karma Police,"
"Fitter, Happier," "Electioneering," "Climbing Up the Walls," "No Surprises,"
"Lucky," "The Tourist."