FEATURE: OK Computer at Twenty: OKNOTOK

FEATURE:

 

OK Computer at Twenty:

 

Image result for radiohead 1997

 

OKNOTOK

________

EVERY year sees the anniversary of some album or other…

Image result for radiohead 1997

and, most of the time, there is nothing to get that excited about. This year; not only is The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band celebrating its fiftieth anniversary: Radiohead’s seminal OK Computer turns twenty. Whilst not as culturally significant and monumental as that Beatles record – although, time and circumstance could alter that – it is an important milestone. I have written about the album in the past but merely as a personal thing: explaining why the album is so special and the legacy it has. This year, Radiohead will take to the Glastonbury stage and, in doing so, mark the twentieth anniversary of their legendary 1997 gig – the one that capitulated the group to new heights and is burned into Glastonbury folklore. Back in 1997, few could predict an album like OK Computer would come along – even from a band who has created the masterful The Bends. That is, to me, their finest moment and a sensational record. OK Computer had a big task on its hands following from The Bends. Rather than repeating the more acoustic, love-based songs; OK Computer employed different themes and sounds and, as such, contains only a few similarities to its predecessor. Japan got to experience OK Computer on 21st May whereas we got hold of it on 16th June. When it arrived, Tony Blair came to power and it seemed like there was a sense of hope – a different agenda and government to repair the mess made by the previous incumbents. In Radiohead’s world; there was no real change or sunshine on the horizon. Songs like Electioneering directly reference those sort of politicians: false promises and campaign sloganeering. Climbing Up the Walls is them at their creepiest: Thom Yorke the stalking killer who roams around a family house after dark; the fear lurking in the shadows and that voice in the head. Being a Radiohead album, there is a mix of instant classics and those more underrated and slow-burning tracks Paranoid Android, Lucky and No Surprises are staples in the Radiohead canon whilst the Space-Age Subterranean Homesick Alien looked ahead to the sort of sound and experimentation Kid A (2000) would provide.

No automatic alt text available.

Common with all great and legendary albums: OK Computer seems as relevant and special as the day it was released. That dark and foreboding feeling has augmented since those Blair days and the world seems less certain. There is political strife and a sense of defeatism. In a strange way, OK Computer is ever-relevant and prescient. What remains, aside from its predictions of the future, is the music itself. In a year when Grunge had died and Britpop was practically dead; Radiohead stepped up and provided something rivalled the best guitar music emerging from the U.S. The band performed a lot of the songs live and together – giving it that tight and compelling sound it is noted for. Twenty years after its release and the band have been teasing announcements. Finally, we will see the release of OKNOTOK 1997-2017 (to give it its full title). The reissue will collate the original twelve-track album in addition to eight B-sides and, for all completists and mega-fans, some unreleased material. Lift, a song, as Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien told ‘6 Music, was realised when the band toured with Alanis Morissette; it would have, were it included on OK Computer, taken the band in the wrong direction and made them too big – perhaps juxtaposing the sound and themes of the album. These many years down the line and the band might regret that decision: the word is that Lift is one of those songs that could define and own any album. Maybe it would have seemed at-odds with the twelve songs on the L.P. but Radiohead being Radiohead, isn’t that what they are about?! Regardless, we will see that song, and two other fresh tracks, on this reissue. A lot of the B-sides they are releasing have already appeared on previous Radiohead E.P.s but it is a chance to bring everything onto a single record. I Promise and Man of War are the other unreleased tracks and the full tracklisting looks like this:

Disc 1:
01 AIRBAG
02 PARANOID ANDROID
03 SUBTERRANEAN HOMESICK ALIEN
04 EXIT MUSIC (FOR A FILM)
05 LET DOWN
06 KARMA POLICE
07 FITTER HAPPIER
08 ELECTIONEERING
09 CLIMBING UP THE WALLS
10 NO SURPRISES
11 LUCKY
12 THE TOURIST

_________

Disc 2:
01 I PROMISE
02 MAN OF WAR
03 LIFT
04 LULL
05 MEETING IN THE AISLE
06 MELATONIN
07 A REMINDER
08 POLYETHYLENE (PARTS 1 & 2)
09 PEARLY*
10 PALO ALTO
11 HOW I MADE MY MILLIONS

Radiohead released this statement:

Rescued from defunct formats, prised from dark cupboards and brought to light after two decades in cold storage… OK COMPUTER: the original twelve track album, three unreleased tracks and eight B-sides, all newly remastered from the original analogue tapes*.

Inside a black box emblazoned with a dark image of a burned copy of OK COMPUTER are three heavyweight 180-gram black 12″ vinyl records and a hardcover book containing more than 30 artworks, many of which have never been seen before except by us, and full lyrics to all the tracks except the ones that haven’t really got any lyrics.

Under this weighty tome are yet more surprises: a notebook containing 104 pages from Thom Yorke’s library of scrawled notes of the time, a sketchbook containing 48 pages of Donwood and Tchock’s ‘preparatory work’ and a C90 cassette mix tape compiled by us, taken from OK COMPUTER session archives and demo tapes.

To avoid accusations of wilful obscurity, a 320k MP3, 16- or 24-bit WAV download of 23 tracks will be available to you on 23rd June and a download of the cassette will be inside the box”.

I cannot wait to get my hands on the new release – 23rd June is a way away but will arrive soon enough! That vinyl release will be incredible: those sketches and notes from Yorke; the detail and designs; all that glorious music on its proper format. I am unsure what the cost will be but it will be a great investment. Radiohead are gearing themselves up for Glastonbury and will perform one of their most anticipated and well-attended gigs of their career. It will be a magical occasion and a chance to see whether they can top that epic 1997 performance. The album that formed the centrepiece of the gig will be in focus and many people are remembering the year Radiohead really started to explode. Whether you are a fan of Airbag’s near-miss vehicular horror or The Tourist’s swooping, operatic wager against idiotic tourists – watching the world whizz past without appreciating it – or, in my case, the timeless of Karma Police – it will all be there for you to digest. Some Radiohead albums have filler tracks but I am loathed to think of OK Computer’s – Climbing Up the Walls and Electioneering never get big thumbs-up from critics but are essential selections. Even Radiohead’s B-sides are more memorable than most groups’ A-sides so it will be wonderful seeing how that lesser material stacks up side-by-side the original album. Looking at the album’s official website; you can purchase OKNOTOK in the following formats:

Vinyl

A triple-sleeve gatefold holding three 180-gram black 12″ vinyl records – containing the original twelve track album, three unreleased tracks and eight B-sides – all newly remastered from the original analogue tapes. The sleeve includes a download card for a 320k M.P.3 or 16-bit W.A.V. download of the 23-track album.

This product will ship to you from 23rd June and will also be available in shops on that date.

Image result for radiohead 1997

C.D.

Two C.D.s containing the original twelve track album; three unreleased tracks and eight B-sides – all newly remastered from the original analogue tapes.

This product will ship to you from 23rd June and will also be available in shops on that date.

Digital

A 320k M.P.3; 16-bit W.A.V. or 24-bit W.A.V. download of the original twelve -track album, three unreleased tracks and eight B-sides, all newly remastered from the original analogue tapes, available to download on 23rd June.

For new discoverers of Radiohead; OKNOTOK is a perfect introduction to their finest album – in the eyes of many, at least. For those well-versed and familiar; you get a fantastic companion to the original album – surely that vinyl option is going to be popular! In any case, it is a fantastic opportunity to discover/rediscover one of the finest albums of the 1990s. Grab a hold of the album – whatever format you feel best suits you – and take the time to dive right into it. Close your eyes, open the ears and let it…

Image result for radiohead ok computer

TAKE the imagination away.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s