Video: How Radiohead Changed Rock With Ok Computer
Hey. Welcome to Ill Minded Media. My name is Uba and this is sort of a safe haven for 90s babies like myself who were fortunate enough to be spoiled by everything from Illmatic to The Matrix. This is the place where I get to gush about all of the dope s*** that I grew up listening to or looking at. And I get it. It’s been a while since the last video and we all know that House YouTube is all about consistency. Fortunately, for those geniuses…I don’t care. What should matter is that I’m back and I’m not empty-handed. If you’ve somehow managed not to be spoiled by the title of this video, I’m going to be talking about arguably the greatest album of all time. By arguably the greatest band of all time. You know what? F*** it, I’m talking about Radiohead’s OK Computer. Top 5, dead or alive.
All right, so before we get into OK Computer, a little insight first. Why Radiohead? Well, when it comes to musicians from any era, few could match their influence on the industry. Coldplay, Frank Ocean, Muse and even Travis Scott have all cited them as a major point of reference in their respective music. Publications like New Musical Express have even gone so far as to call them The Beatles of the 21st Century. Yet and still, their impact goes far beyond their status as the godfathers of modern alternative. I believe that the collection of Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Colin Greenwood, Ed O’Brien and Philip Selway established their legacy by pushing music forward. Everything from their fusion of electronica and rock to the adoption of the pay-what-you-want pricing strategy should demonstrate their true value. To comprehend the genius, of OK Computer, one must understand the…interesting musical landscape of the 1990s. Following a shaky debut with Pablo Honey, the band was suffering from an identity crisis. Critics and fans were dismissing efforts like Creep as a pale imitation of Nirvana’s grunge.
You see, by then, rock had become kind of straightforward and clichéd. Grunge and Brit-Pop were dominating the radio and charts, leaving little to no room for more progressive acts. In what would become a sign of things to come, Radiohead answered their critics with a creative jump forward in the form of their second album, 1995’s The Bends. Thanks to what many now call the precursor to OK Computer, rock was finally beginning to move into a more sonically ambitious space. But first, more adversity. So…their sophomore album drops and…that’s right, people still didn’t understand Radiohead. So, in response, they did what any respectable band would do if their album wasn’t a home run. They toured…and toured and toured some more. While brutal, this extensive run proved to be an enormous blessing in disguise for the band. As one show bled into the next, Thom Yorke began writing about the debasing effects of technology and the displacement he was feeling while living in what he called a nonstop transit. According to a rare interview with Rolling Stone, Yorke stated that.
.. And just like that, from the depths of phobia and A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, OK Computer was born. Released on May 21, 1997, OK Computer was immediately recognized as a brilliantly bizarre extension of the last album’s bold ambition. Using complex lyrics and menacing instrumentals, Radiohead marked the death of their former selves with a post-modern classic. From here on out, both the band and rock genre would never be the same. Nigel Godrich, an engineer on The Bends and producer on every Radiohead album thereafter, stated that… While recording in the massive estate of Dr. Quinn herself, Jane Seymour, Radiohead threw themselves completely into their third album, facing everything from isolation to paranormal activity. Xylophones, synthesizers, organs…seemingly every instrument was fair game for the rapidly maturing band. Gone were the flawed days of Pablo Honey. In its place, OK Computer established a new rock norm, one that would lead to more experimental albums in the future.
In the meantime, Radiohead worked unusual tempo changes and melodies into atypical hits like Paranoid Android, which guitarist Ed O’Brien referred to as a marriage between Queen and the Pixies. Guitarist Johnny Greenwood also recalled… Inspired by a car accident from Yorke’s past, the album-opening Airbag fused traditional rock with DJ Shadow’s signature electronica as well as commentary on the spiritual ramifications of modern transportation. The outro by the way is, without question, one of the most mesmerizing things in all of music. One of the biggest strengths of OK Computer is Yorke’s challenging songwriting, which is both soothing and sinister. Even something as childish as No Surprises is layered with dark complexities, spinning a tale about a life that’s been torn to shreds by a pessimism that’s all too familiar. Let Down stands as another impressive juxtaposition, harmonizing several of life’s futilities to more beautiful melodies. OK Computer also managed to raise a number of key observations about society, most importantly, the ill effects of technology on mankind.
Which, of course, makes it terribly relevant in 2019. Once upon a time, it would be easy to dismiss Yorke’s phobias as either paranoid or melodramatic. Today, they ring out prophetically. Each song paints a picture of a complex world, both grim and magnificent. The music was more than just grunge or prog or even Brit-pop. It was refreshingly progressive and for one reason or another, more accessible to listeners than something like The Bends. So accessible, as a matter of fact, that in 2015, the Library of Congress added it the National Recording Registry, alongside other game-changing classics like The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. With a sound that’s both enigmatic and cinematic, Radiohead produced something similar to The Matrix on wax. OK Computer presented both caution and counsel to a world on the brink of an evolution that terrified them.
On its last track, The Tourist, Yorke offers advice to people like himself, men and women who struggle to live a world filled with noise… And that’s it! Thanks for watching. Hopefully, I’ve done a great job convincing you that OK Computer is definitely one of the greatest albums of all time. If you haven’t listened to OK Computer, please do yourself a favor, find a record store or somewhere that sells music and buy yourself a piece of history. And if you appreciate my take on Radiohead, help Ill Minded Media by giving this video a thumbs up and subscribing to get notified whenever I drop new videos. Also, what should I talk about next? Drop down in the comment section and let me know. Stay tuned and take care..