Hot Press



One of the most critically acclaimed albums in rock history, OK Computer was lauded in Hot Press upon its initial release. We here present George Byrne’s original review, published in June 1997. In the two years since Radiohead secured their place among the enigmatic elite with The Bends, a strange situation has emerged. The more withdrawn, individual and doggedly determined, if not downright difficult their approach has become, the bigger the audience they’ve attracted.

But for OK Computer Radiohead have largely ditched the blinding rage of The Bends- triggered in the main by the claustroph­obic craziness which ensued post ‘Creep’- and retreated inwards, paradoxica­lly taking themselves further away from what any band in a similar position would regard as a sensible base.

Self-produced in an Elizabetha­n mansion outside Bath, what Radiohead have created here is one of the first truly psychedeli­c records of the decade, and no, I’m not talking about the biryani n’ Buddha bollocks being peddled by K*** S ***** . Listening to

OK Computer is virtually a hallucinat­ory experience (this is a doper’s delight and no mistake), like gate-crashing the band’s collective dream… occasional­ly very nice indeed and then jarringly unsettling.

The opening ‘Airbag’ is an evolved offspring of ‘My Iron Lung’ and ‘Planet Telex’ which finds Yorke declaring: “In the next World

War/In a jacknifed juggernaut/I am born again”, so that time he spent in Dublin obviously did him a world of good then.

The first indication that things have been bent out of all recognisab­le shape comes with the single ‘Paranoid Android’, a stitched together, six minute plus mini suite of malice (“When I am king you will be first against the wall”) and mangled guitars, with some spooky chanting thrown into the middle for bad measure. The three songs which follow typify the spaced out beauty which lies at the record’s core.

‘Subterrane­an Homesick Alien’, ‘Exit Music (For A Film)’ and ‘Let Down’ track themes of abandon and escape- of the physical, mental chemical and, er, extra-terrestria­l kind- over music of quite staggering breadth and subtly applied strength. Johnny Greenwood, Ed O’Brien and Yorke have long been capable of wringing the necks of their guitars to produce often violent bursts of noise but they use that tactic sparingly here. In fact, Greenwood spends as much time tinkering with electric pianos and mellotrans as he does savaging his strings. ‘Exit Music (For a Film)’ features ghostly chorales a la For Your Pleasure- period Roxy Music, while ‘Let Down’ has a wondrous, cyclical melody and virtually chanted vocals which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Eno’s Taking Tiger Mountain… if you’re going to go back and borrow, go back to the best.

Delicate yet resolutely edgy, initially difficult yet ultimately rewarding, with OK Computer Radiohead have made a fabulously disorienta­ting record, an album which very few bands in their position (read: none) would have even dared contemplat­e. Whether it’s that legendaril­y “difficult” third album is entirely up to you, because it seems to me, that for Radiohead, making this masterpiec­e was a piece of piss.

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 ??  ?? 1997 Radiohead signed
cover from the Hot Press Covered in Glory book;
the OK Computer reissue
1997 Radiohead signed cover from the Hot Press Covered in Glory book; the OK Computer reissue
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