“Ok Computer” by Radiohead: An Emotional Force To Behold In Alternative Rock


On RateYourMusic’s top albums, “Ok Computer” is at number two.

Luke Chipley, Copy Editor

The 90’s had many fantastic albums and musical movements; the grunge genre had skyrocketed in popularity with bands such as Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden. Hip hop had also started to become even more mainstream with rappers like The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac, the Wu-Tang Clan, and so many more. Tons of more underground artists created albums considered amazing today, whether it be albums such as “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel, or “Loveless” by My Bloody Valentine.

There are too many notable artists and albums to even be mentioned by me in one single article. The 90s was heavily revered and noted as one of the best decades in music because of its variety and creative fusions of genres, as well as bringing lots of underground tropes of music around that time into a lot more of a mainstream appeal.

One can also say that lots of these albums were praised on an emotional standard, and I personally feel like one that easily lives up to that praise is Radiohead’s “Ok Computer.” Coming out in 1997, this album is widely considered as one of the greatest albums of the 1990s, and one of the greatest albums of all time.

Radiohead caused quite a stir in the 90s, with their other albums “Pablo Honey” and “The Bends” getting recognized, delving into a very melancholic nature with their music. However, with “Ok Computer,” the band took an already lightly depressive palette of music and took it even farther, and created a concept to go along with it.

“Ok Computer,” at least to me, is a forward-thinking piece of work that tells of the overwhelming dread and alienation one can feel in an increasing technology dependent society, and what can be stripped away from one because of that.

There is a common switch; or maybe a yin and yang type split between the feeling of hopelessness and intensity with “Ok Computer”, an example of this being the most intense song on the album with “Climbing Up The Walls,” which then leads to one of the most depressive songs on the album, “No Surprises.”

While I will not go through the entire album and explain each meaning of each song, I will say that the flow of these ten tracks is fantastic, portraying a very linear story while also containing some vague lyrics that would need a bit of thinking and analyzation to decipher.

The other great thing about this album is its production. Not only does each track suit a certain mood for each moment in the story, but each track just sounds either nearly perfect or just flat-out perfect. The instruments drenched in reverb on “Subterranean Homesick Alien,” the loud drums on “Airbag,” or the lullaby-esque guitar melody on “No Surprises,” there are so many perks to each track that somehow seem perfect for what the track would need.

“Paranoid Android” is what many people call the album’s centerpiece, or even calling it the “Bohemian Rhapsody” of the 90s. The two are pretty similar in concept, as they both are very psychological and very thrilling. “Paranoid Android” is way more chaotic and angry, however. Whether it be the blood pumping guitar solo in the middle of the song, or Thom Yorke slowly and menacingly singing “rain down, rain down on me.”

At first, I did not exactly understand the appeal of the singer of the band, Thom Yorke. He has a signature whiny voice that can sometimes make his words a bit difficult to comprehend. However, Yorke makes up for this by singing in general, as he does have a beautiful voice that again, somehow perfectly suits each and every track on the album.

I love his stunning build in the song “Exit Music (For A Film),” detailing of him and a loved one leaving a place he despised. It is beautiful despite having a certain bitter angst to it.

“We hope your rules and wisdom choke you, now we are one in everlasting peace.”

Yorke can even go as far as singing with intensity on tracks such as “Electioneering” or “Climbing Up The Walls,” two of the angrier songs on the tracklist, detailing lyrics of anxiety and paranoia reaching a breaking point, or just accepting the things that are happening around him.

“Karma Police” could be another example of this, as the song mainly talks of themes such as having anxiety of how others can and will perceive you, and what that costs to anyone mentally.

As I said before, there is a separation between the songs that are intense, and the songs that create an utterly hopeless emotional palette. “Let Down” is dreary and seemingly at a total loss, ridden with no positive lyrics whatsoever.

“The emptiest of feelings, disappointed people clinging onto bottles, and when it comes it’s so so disappointing. Let down and hanging around, Crushed like a bug in the ground. Let down and hanging around.”

“Fitter Happier” is a small interlude on the tracklist. There is a robotic voice that sheds light on a society that is completely technology dependent, creating an almost dystopian atmosphere. The robot calls us humans names that represent the downfall that modern society could take as a whole as we all become even more alienated with each other.

“No Surprises” is a silent plea for peace. Not just for the protagonist that we follow throughout the album, but for the world that he lives in altogether. It is easily the most hopeless point on the album. However, luckily, things are not always doom and gloom. From “No Surprises,” the final two tracks, “Lucky” and “The Tourist,” end things off on a much more hopeful note, each being very catchy and emotionally gratifying.

While some may not enjoy the doom and gloom attitude that “Ok Computer” distributes at full force, I love it. It is an album that warns of how technology can affect us as humans through a linear storyline, along with extremely memorable songs. I think that this album does not have any flaws with it, and is a ten out of ten record that shows how good alternative rock music can be.