Recording over the space of a year in a secluded Somerset mansion with long-time collaborator Nigel Godrich, Radiohead were perfectly adept in recreating the rich, powerful alternative sound of their sophomore album The Bends (1995), while harnessing the isolated, paranoid atmosphere of their surroundings to create a modern classic, regarded by many as their masterpiece, and an inspiration for many bands to follow.
With a greater emphasis on electronic instruments, the band creates the perfect backdrop for Thom Yorke’s cynical anecdotes of car crashes, contemporary businessmen and past regrets, while members such as Jonny Greenwood provide dark, constricting, and sometimes modest guitar melodies that enthral and unsettle. The album opener, ‘Airbag’ provides a deceiving tale of vehicle-related paranoia amidst the lush jangle of sleigh bells and driving drums, followed by the album’s flagship song ‘Paranoid Android’, a disturbing portrayal of modern life and its failures. ‘Subterranean Homesick Alien’ laments a lost family long since seen, and transitions to the organ powered ‘Exit Music for a Film’, a twisted documentation of a failing relationship. ‘Let Down’, which is quite possibly the album’s stand-out track, creates a sparking atmosphere of chromatic guitars and optimistic despair, until those hopes are dashed by ‘Fitter Happier’, ‘Electioneering’ and ‘Climbing Up The Walls’, three aggressive rants of contemporary workers and politicians, and the failures of the system and past decisions. ‘No Surprises’, easily Radiohead’s most recognisable track, stifles the mind with ideas of suicide and depression, while ‘Lucky’ and ‘The Tourist’ end the album with broad guitar harmonies and angst-laden falsetto performances from Thom Yorke.
OK Computer is without a doubt one of the most influential album of the last twenty years, with few other bands even coming close to the musical feats of what is undoubtedly Radiohead’s magnum opus.