REVIEW OF OK COMPUTER
Radiohead has always been a little otherworldly. Though their music is composed of concrete, familiar elements culled from the venerable legacy of British pop, the quintet gives that tried-and-true tradition their own slightly surreal, elegantly angst-ridden twist.
The group's first two albums combined pristine pop with a distinctive, art-tinged, post-punk musical attack. Frontman Thom Yorke's vocals, delicately haunting one minute, piquant and raw the next, worked with and cut against the mutable guitar dynamic (generated by Jonny Greenwood and Ed O'Brien) gusting around the rock-steady rhythm section (bassist Colin Greenwood and drummer Phil Selway). This time around they've augmented that mixture with discrete doses of electronics that hint at, but don't glom onto, the aesthetic of electronica. Far from bandwagoneering, on OK Computer Radiohead make the subtle intrusion of silicone-based sounds enhance the heart and soul of their music.
In "Karma Police" they deliberately whip up ghosty Beatle harmonies to punctuate an ironic '90s epitaph for '60s idealism. Moving past the summer of love and into the dark, lush world of latter-day Pink Floyd, "Exit Music (For a Film)" conjures images of the schoolyard in "The Wall," with sampled children's voices hovering eerily in the wings; more poignant than gloomy, "Subterranean Homesick Alien" packs a woozy beauty reminiscent of "Deep Blue Day," the Brian Eno track featured on the soundtrack to "Trainspotting." Clangorous guitar, clanging percussion and instrumental altercations break out here and there, intermingled with delicate threads of synthetic sounds, making for an experience that is, by turns, trippy, anxious, furious and serene. "Paranoid Android," a snapshot of the inherent neuroses of modern life, encompasses a little bit of everything
Underpinning all twelve tracks is the delicate emotional theme that gives the album its character -- a meditation on the future imbued with the sense of pessimistic optimism that is the essence of Radiohead.
-- Sandy Masuo
REVIEW OF RADIOHEAD CONCERT
It's hard to believe that only five years ago Radiohead was written off by many as a one-hit wonder after the precious "Creep" hit the top of the charts and its video found a coveted heavy-rotation spot on MTV. It didn't help that the band's live performance was wanting. But Radiohead responded by coming back with a stunner of a second album in 1995 The Bends and an improved stage show. The band wowed audiences with its walls of noisy guitar and unshakable tag team comprised of bassist Colin Greenwood and drummer Phil Selway, while lead singer Thom Yorke charmed with his powerfully expressive voice and marionette-style movements.
The quintet ended its U.S. tour in support of OK Computer, their challenging and compelling third album, in New York yesterday, playing to a sold-out house (and a few friends, including Marilyn Manson and Calvin Klein, in choice balcony seats). The guys didn't disappoint. "Fitter, Happier," an eerie monologue from the third LP that squalled from a darkened stage, signaled the beginning of the 105-minute show. Once onstage, the band promptly opened its "Airbag," quickly establishing the bleak landscape of the modern tech-driven world OK Computer comments on with a rousing three-pronged guitar attack launched by Jon Greenwood, Ed O'Brien and Yorke.
The band zigzagged between The Bends and OK, letting the irony and disillusionment of the songs' lyrics tie together the studied cool of the older stuff and the minimal and stark newer material. There was some stylistic echoing: "Paranoid Android," the first single from OK, followed "My Iron Lung," which foreshadowed the layering of rhythms and sudden time-signature changes that lend weight to the band's more recent songs. But mostly Radiohead played it straight and fine, relying on good material, well-calibrated arrangements and those guitars -- which, with Thom Yorke's seemingly tireless lungs, communicated confusion as easily as hatred or lust. "Planet Telex," the tragic "Exit Music (for a Film)," "No Surprises," "Fake Plastic Trees," "Karma Police," "Subterranean Homesick Alien," "Bulletproof": All fared well. No set would be complete without "Creep," of course, and the tune -- all raw yearning and unrequited lust -- gets better with age and every stripped-down performance
Radiohead again proved that it is that rarest of entities: an old-fashioned rock'n'roll band intent on entertaining with good songs and performances, not light-show overkill or silly costumes. Yorke ended the night with a moving rendition of an acoustic number that began with "Red wine/Sad films/Never get back to your arms," and ended on the equally sad chorus, "I think you're crazy/I'll see you in the next life." And we, in equally fitting tribute, reluctantly left.
-- Marie Elsie St. Léger
REVIEW OF "LIVE AT THE 10 SPOT" PERFORMANCE
When you go to see a performance by the greatest working rock band on the earth today, you pretty much expect it to be a concert-going experience of religious proportions.
That's a little dramatic, you say? Well, for as long as humankind can remember, many forms of music have been inspired, often leading to levels of ecclesiastical ecstasy. So why can't radio-played rock music wound with genius have this same effect?
After all, Radiohead's frontman Thom Yorke vocally hits high notes worthy of a choirboy that at once can be heartbreaking and bone- chilling. Guitarist and keyboardist Jonny Greenwood hides behind a veil of shiny black hair, crouching over his equipment as if in a supplicant trance. His brother, bassist Colin Greenwood, stays in the darkened background of the stage playing his instrument deftly and powerfully, like a humble servant. Drummer Phil Selway sits at his kit, a man who knows his job better than anyone, like the dedicated soldier. Guitarist Ed O'Brien stands at attention stage left, lending his backing vocals during hauntingly pretty songs like "Karma Police" and "No Surprises," and plays his guitar with the quiet pizzazz of an elated preacher. This combination is a potent rock cocktail of exaltation.
You sit enthralled and wonder (despite some busybody Music Hall usher shining his flashlight in your general direction for no apparent reason) how five mere mortals can create such heavenly rock. Yet they do.
Radiohead opened their one-hour-and-20-minute set (this does not include the 20-minute encore) with a bang-out performance of "Airbag," the first track off of their highly acclaimed third album, OK Computer, followed by "Karma Police." The songs were well-executed, if not downright electrifying (mostly the latter). Yorke spoke to the crowd here and there; most interestingly, he dedicated their anti-technology anthem, "Paranoid Android," to billionaire Bill Gates, who Yorke said "could solve a lot of the world's problems."
Radiohead performing perfect songs like "No Surprises," "Exit Music (For a Film)," or the last song of the set, "Street Spirit [Fade Out]" caused a visceral reaction: a quickening in the chest, a tightening in the throat. It's just music, you think, but its power overtakes you inexplicably. Then there is something about Thom Yorke, his charisma, his voice, his lyrics -- the acres of extra pants he wears bunched around his ankles-- that makes you think, if I could put him in my pocket and ferry him home, I would -- in a heartbeat. Yorke is also known for his convulsion-like stage antics, as if he's been tossed into a sizzling frying pan and never felt better. However, he was more physically low-key during this show, as the tour was drawing to a close. But this did not detract: high-key Thom or low-key Thom, either way, you are guaranteed a captivating performance.
After the band left the stage, the audience howled for almost five minutes before Radiohead returned for their encore, which included (thank god!) the most beautiful rock song ever, "Fake Plastic Trees," and ended with the excellent wind-down song, "The Tourist."
Radiohead gives rewarding show. You don't leave hungry. You don't leave empty-headed. You don't leave empty-hearted. It's a musical communion of smarts and melody. It's the rock they must listen to from Arcadia to the Elysian Fields, and all areas of perfectly imperfect paradise in between.
-- Alexandra Flood
TOP 10 ALBUMS OF THE 90'S
By James Eldred/The BG News (my local college paper)
RADIOHEAD'S OK COMPUTER
Radiohead somehow managed to go from one-hit wonders in 1993 to the next Pink Floyd in 1997 with only three albums.
The first, Pablo Honey met with mixed reviews for the most part but recieved huge international sales with the hit song 'Creep.' An now alternative-rock anthem aobut self-loathing and failed relationships was a hint of things to come in an album filled with mostly unforgettable tunes. In spite of the overall weakness of the album, it went gold both in the UK and America. The critics labeled them as a one-hit wonder.
The critics proved themselves wrong, however, when the band released their follow-up album The Bends. The album recieved international accolades from critics, and after releasing four singles and extensive touring, album went gold and also went on to be on many "best of the year" lists in several UK magazines, but was relatively ignored here.
Afterward the band retreated th a 15th century estate outside Bath, England to record their next LP. Recording in such an unusual setting gave way to unusual musical ideas as teh band increasingly focused on themes of isolationism and hopelessness, utilizing a much quiter less guitar driven sound than what was previously seen on their earlier works.
The finished product was like no other rock album that was released that year. A quiet, somber, concept album about the complete loss of personal identity, emotion and freedom by means of an all powerful force, OK Comptuer was released on July 1, 1997. A lot happened in two years, and the highly experimental musical scene was working in was on it's way out and pop music was back in.
Surprisingly, critics embraced OK Computer immediately as one of the best, if not the best album of 1997. Many called it the first great concept album in years, comparing it to the best works of bands like Pink Floyd. It was even nominated for several Grammies, including best album of the year.
What was even more surprising, however, was teh fact that it was not just well-recieved by the critics internationally, but the masses as well. After floundering in the bottom of the top 100 for a while, the album slowly gained strength. The band finally reached mainstream audiences later in tate year when 'Karma Police' was released as the second single off the album. Wuite possibly one of the most depressing songs on the album (quite a feat) it's success was surprising to say the least.
When a band decides to make a concept album they rae taking a considerable risk. Not only does the concept have tgo be strong enough to support 10 to 12 songs, each song has to touch on the overlaying theme, but without all sounding the same, and Radiohead accomplishes both. The album has a cohesiveness that isn't present on some of the best concept albums ( The Wall comes to mind). Each song builds off another, starting slightly upbeat with 'Airbag,' and 'Paranoid Android,' but quickly decreasing in tempo and increasing in hopelessness with 'Exit Music (For A Film)' and 'Karma Police,' and finally come to a head with 'Fitter Happier,' which sacrcastic computer voice relaying message of compliance and self-surrender perfectly define the entire album.
Radiohead no has the problem of having to one-up this album with ther next release coming out next year. This will not be an easy task. OK Computer is one of the most complex and intelligent alubms of the decade, but if anyone can do it, it's Radiohead.