Radiohead – OKNOTOK 1997-2017 Review
In the Library Of Congress’s National Recording Registry, OK Computer sits between Roy Orbison’s Oh, Pretty Woman and 1922’s surreal The OKeh Laughing Record, offering belly laughs over a funereal cornet parp. Significant? Not really. But some Radiohead fans would probably make it so.
OK Computer is, after all, an album weighed down by its own gravitas. Tim Footman’s 2007 book, Welcome To The Machine: OK Computer And The Death Of The Classic Album, shouts: Take This LP VERY Seriously. Some claim a comparison to Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew. There’s a crazy theory OK Computer and In Rainbows are companion/mirror LPs by design.
Some even claim Thom Yorke prophesises the age of ‘The Donald’ (in Electioneering) and even foresaw exploding Samsung Galaxys on aeroplanes (The Tourist’s “Sometimes I get overcharged/ That’s when you see sparks”)… But that’s how people react to strong art. They obsess.
OKNOTOK lets you dive deeper into this era-defining classic. There’s little more to be said about those incredible original 12 songs. From the oscillating Paranoid Android to the pretty and unnerving No Surprises to the glacial glide of Subterranean Homesick Alien, Let Down and Lucky, it’s impeccably crafted, and the remastered vinyl lets its sophisticated sonics positively soar. Make no mistake: OK Computer is a musically majestic record that shifted the musical landscape.
As for double the dose? The eight B-sides, most fans will have: six alone were on the Airbag / How Am I Driving? EP. So it’s the three ‘new’ ones that are both carrot and stick. The good news? One is great. The bad news? Two are just okay. Tellingly, they all sound a bit pre-OKC, and don’t quite fit. The marching band snares and strums of I Promise are redolent of Roy Orbison (see?) singing Little Drummer Boy.
Man Of War is a grandiose, proggy treatise on more tech paranoia (“Unplug the phones / Stop all the taps”) that would have suited OK Computer. Then there’s the much-anticipated Lift, played live from 1996 before being eventually dismissed altogether. Lift is a grand angst-anthem, nonetheless, and would have elevated The Bends in particular.
The triple 180-gram vinyl version is great value at £30. The boxed edition, adding a book, art works, notes and a C-90 cassette of demos, is a rather steep £100. As we’ve said, fans will find value and meaning in the framing.
Yet for all the extras, you’ll still likely listen to the original OK Computer just as it is. Radiohead got it right first time, with everything in its right place. And that’s what’s really significant.