Ok Computer by Radiohead, squaring the circle

By Sergio Ariza

On their third record Radiohead managed to square the circle, bringing together two worlds, which had until then been opposed, the guitar rock of their previous album, The Bends, with the technological experimentation of other musics and worlds that appear on their following record Kid A. Ok Computer was that moment when Radiohead emerged as the biggest rock band on the planet and delivered a record liked by both fans of Pink Floyd and R.E.M. at once. Classic and alternative rock  finally agree on something and Thom Yorke’s band and Jonny Greenwood’s present one of the 2 or 3 best records of the 90s. 

Recorded between May of ‘96 and March of ‘97, Ok Computer had its introduction on September 4 1995 when, together with producer Nigel Godrich  Lucky was recorded in  a few hours and they considered it the best thing they had recorded to date, with Jonny Greenwood proving to be the best guitarist of his generation, playing a Sunburst Fender Telecaster Plus as a violin (the last time he used this guitar before it was stolen a month later). The song is still the debtor of The Bends and everyone told them that they were on the right road, to make The Bends II and sell millions of records. But the band had a completely different idea and certainly wasn’t willing to repeat themselves. Right from the first track Airbag, we see that this album is something else. Inspired by DJ Shadow’s music, but interpreted with a rock orchestration, Radiohead opens the door to new music and sounds, with Colin Greenwood’s  bass sounding like a dub recording from the 70s.

The rest of the record brings one surprise after another with one top song after the next f. However, since this page is focussed on guitars, one cannot forget their best known song Paranoid Android, which brings different parts together, along the lines of the Beatles on the second part of Abbey Road, and Jonny Greenwood delivers  one of the most significant riffs of the 90s, besides two other memorable solos, the first with the power and coarseness of their iconic version of Creep, and the second a science fiction piece as if the pedal turned on him and played his Tobacco Burst Fender Telecaster Plus. Of course, there is also Karma Police, No Surprises, Let Down, and The Tourist that finishes the album with another demonstration by the younger Greenwood, this time on his Fender Starcaster. 

Ok Computer is a conceptual record in its own way, not following any narrative, but just a general concept. In this case a satire on modern life, about the growing weight of technology in our lives and the problems that come with it. The band anticipates the internet revolution, attains  perfection as musicians and manage to take their sound to the max with a collection of songs without a flaw which make them the great white hope of guitar rock. Of course, they would reject all of this and would launch themselves  in search of new formulas to perfect, but in one glorious moment, delivered the record that the world needed.

(Images: ©CordonPress)