Radiohead: OK Computer (1997)
For a band that started out peddling gimmicky, formulaic grunge via 1993’s “Creep” (the angsty single gave every indication of a copycat band, as undistinguished as Bush!), Radiohead sure came into their own via ‘95’s magnificent The Bends.
Like most people, I felt that ‘97’s OK Computer was equally spectacular, though I only started spinning the album intensely during my only, rather miserable Minneapolis winter of ‘98/‘99, which may explain why I associated mostly chilly, wintry vibes with these songs, until I revisited them this week.
At its best, OK Computer erects veritable edifices to atmospheric melancholy, none of them “taller” than “Karma Police” (part waltz, part religious hymn), “No Surprises” (a lullaby to alienation) and “Paranoid Android” (hard rock mid-section notwithstanding), and each of them elevated, humanized by Thom Yorke’s anguished pathos.
Not that there’s anything minimalist about the album (beyond its cover art), because all of this subtlety and understatement obviously required a hell of a lot of work -- and nearly a year in the studio -- to conjure up!
This becomes evident just as soon as first cut “Airbag” floats sinister power chords and flamenco-flavored fast-picking (I wish I could say it was black metal-inspired) over those trip-hop beats, and is further illustrated by other standouts like “Let Down,” “Lucky” and slow-building “The Tourist.”
Even the album’s lesser lights (e.g. “Exit Music (For a Film),” “Electioneering,” “Climbing Up the Walls,” etc.) ultimately contribute to the whole, binding the highlights together into a truly immersive listening experience that’s no doubt largely responsible for the album attaining -- and retaining -- its “classic” status, down the years.
Like all of history’s truly brilliant albums, OK Computer is greater than the sum of its parts, and yet those parts, all on their lonesome, are pretty fucking great, as well.
There’s not much more to talk about, between Radiohead and me ...
Surprisingly, I really liked 2000’s electronics-drenched Kid A; and a timely road trip to watch the band play a massive outdoor gig in Montreal conveniently spirited me out of New York City in the nick of time to avoid the ‘Great Big Power Outage’ of 2003.
But, by then, I’d frankly given up on the band, after feeling entirely unmoved by 2001’s Amnesiac and ‘03’s Hail to the Thief -- can’t remember a single fucking song from either one -- though you’re welcome to state a case in their defense.
The last time I paid any attention to Radiohead, it was because of the fan-friendly, cutting-edge, flexible pricing model they rolled out with ‘07’s In Rainbows, and I’ll always respect them for that (you can count the number of superstar acts who have since followed this progressive and altruistic model on one hand), plus their superlative second, third, and fourth albums.
More ‘90s Alternative Rock: The Afghan Whigs’ Black Love, Catherine Wheel’s Chrome, Ben Folds Five’s Ben Folds Five, Foo Fighters’ The Colour and the Shape, Jellyfish’s Spilt Milk, L7’s Bricks Are Heavy, Manic Street Preachers’ The Holy Bible, Mother Love Bone’s Apple, Nirvana’s Nevermind, Pearl Jam’s Ten, Screaming Trees’ Dust, Smashing Pumpkins’ Gish, Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger, Sugar’s Copper Blue, Therapy?’s Troublegum, Toadies’ Rubberneck, U2’s Zooropa.
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My father and I were just talking about how it's finally feeling like spring, after a full week above zero degrees Celsius(yay), when realized that I had forgotten to post my pictures of the sugar bush from last weekend:
For those who don't know, a sugar bush is where maple sap is gathered to make maple syrup. There were demonstrations of how it was made historically and how the process evolved.
It was a wonderful time, the hike was nice and long,
the weather was brisk, it was so nice, I even stopped to feed the chickadees.