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Album Review: Radiohead – OKNOTOK

3 min read
Photo: Tom Sheehan/Nasty Little Man

There are few bands that live to become as iconic as Radiohead, whose seminal work continues to inspire, divide and provoke the world over. Marking 20 years of OK Computer, this reissue features remastered favourites amongst B-side fan favourites and most importantly – three totally new songs.

 It’s time for a PSA – stating that Radiohead are not everybody’s cup of tea, but as a lifelong unbeliever this reissue might just work as vessel of convergence for many. Listening to remastered versions of Airbag and Paranoid Android amongst others, raises questions as to why I have actively avoided Radiohead up until this point in my life. OK Computer is but a few years younger than myself, and I’m suitably blown away at how progressive this blend of styles still sounds some two decades later.

The contribution of Thom Yorke, Ed O’Brien, Philip Selway, Jonny and Colin Greenwood have made to music and culture throughout their career is second to none. OKNOTOK is the book from which young bands took inspiration from. The thrashing of Paranoid Android seemingly gave birth to Muse, the melodic Karma Police providing a blueprint for decades worth of piano led artists.

Lifelong fans of Radiohead will enjoy losing themselves in the known material, revelling in the B-sides starring alongside. But as a music fan, it is always the newest material to draw the biggest reaction. I Promise is four minutes of the most honest emotion heard on record in recent years. The emotional trauma experienced by individual band members during the recording of their Moon Shaped Pool LP still echo through every syllable Thom Yorke utters. Songs without choruses are a notoriously hard sell, but the plateau-like level of I Promise is a reminder of the nothingness caused by extreme emotional grief.

Man Of War again highlights how influential Radiohead remain, even when Thom Yorke begins singing about baking a cake made out of eyes… Not sure Mary Berry will be awarding him Star Baker anytime soon. Having spent an eternity thinking Radiohead too pretentious, Man Of War has certainly got me rethinking my stance. Guitars build to the most stunning of crescendos, almost orchestral in their arrangement, smattering this track with copious amounts of crossover potential.

The intro to Lift gives way to the macabre lullabies of Thom Yorke, entrancing the ears and charming the soul. Lift doesn’t need dazzling embellishments to cement itself as a highlight, instead there is the subtle cockiness of a band doing what they know to be their best work to date.

The remaining mix of B-sides and original cuts are like a goldmine to any self-confessed Radiohead fans, yet there is an air of self-indulgence that has not aged as well when compared to the openings.Radiohead exist in a comfortable space where winning over new fans isn’t of much concern, but with OKNOTOK, the band open their arms just ever so slightly to accommodate more late comers to their gloomy greyscale party. It won’t be for everyone, but for those who need a soundtrack to grief – Radiohead can help find the words you maybe can’t right now.