13. Radiohead - Kid A
Presaged by grim portents of melody-free self-indulgence and banished guitars, Kid A seemed destined to tear the wheels off Radiohead’s globe-enchanting bandwagon. ln reality its electronic atmospheres, abstract jazz- rock shapes and Thom Yorke's none-more-alienated lyrics only succeeded in oiling those wheels, helping catapult the band into that exclusive VIP lounge where artistic credibility and awesome record sales manage to go hand in hand.
WWST “About as experimental as a major rock record can get within the corporate straitjacket that Radiohead despise.” Q170,***
WHN Swiftly released Amnesiac. Not, as suggested, a return to anthem/c rock but actually K/d A's equally obtuse kid brother.
4. Radiohead - The Bends
Was there ever a time when Thom Yorke wanted to be the biggest rock band in the world? The thunderous powerchords of this album’s title track and the lovely melody of High and Dry suggested as much, but future events would indicate that it was all an unhappy accident. Creep – absurdly grungy in retrospect – had made Radiohead stars in America the previous year, but it was their second album, The Bends, which cemented their reputation as Britain’s most idiosyncratic and visionary rock band.
It would not be long before Yorke set about deconstructing Radiohead’s big rock sound: first with the spaced-out progressive noodlings of OK Computer and then with the guitar-light, anti-rock experimentalism of Kid A and Amnesiac. But back in 1995 he was creating some of the most powerful and emotive rock music of the decade, and the influence of Smells like Teen Spirit is wrti large gere on the angst-rock of Just.
Similarly, Muse have since fashioned a career delivering the kind of high-intensity rock that Radiohead abandoned after this album, and there is much of Nice Dream’s low-key beauty in Travis’ The Man Who, an albumk produced by, of course, by latterday Radiohead ally Nigel Godrich. The influence of The Bends still reverberates today.
WWST “A powerful, bruised, majestically desperate record of frighteningly good songs.” Q103****
WHN Radiohead made Q readers’ Favourite Album of All Time.
"It's a music fan's album."
Producer Nigel Godrich on the happy accident that was OK Computer.
I was 24 when I started work on OK Computer - I'm 30 now - so we were all young and brash and there was a feeling of being left alone to do what we wanted with no grown-ups around. I think we all shared a bit of that maverick spirit.
The band were very pleased with what they'd come up with in rehearsals and wanted to capture that sound, It often happens that you just can't do that in the studio, so we made about half of the record in their rehearsal space. There is a lot of texture on the record, but we didn't start work with the idea of not making another album like The Bends. You hear people talk about manufacturing a sound in the studio, but it didn't happen that way for us. It was more spontaneous than that.
Looking back now, it doesn't seem as if it took that long, but it did. It was a tense, very labour-intensive experience. We all had our problems. l was working alone, so I fitted every single cable and socket myself. Everyone was listening to different music - classical, dance. U2, The Police - but that's always how it is. Everybody brings something different to the table. There was no reluctance to change from any of them. All five of them were pulling in the same direction: which was forward.
It was a very emotional experience. The song Let Down sticks in my mind now as a high point of the record. but as time goes by and I get further away from the album I heard different things. I was immensely proud of what we were doing - it was a piece of my life - and I can understand why Q magazines readers have voted it as their favourite record. It's a music fan's album. If you're someone who subscribes to a magazine month after month, OK Computer is the kind of record you will come back to time and again. The thing is, I still don't think of it as a particularly sophisticated album. lt wasn't contrived, it wasn't pre-planned. It just happened.
Voted into the top spot by thousands, the best album of the last 75 years in your own words…
1. Radiohead – OK Computer
Everything about it just fits together perfectly. Sonically brilliant, it’s still the only album that never fails to move me.
Alex Thatchers, via e-mail
The dictionary definition of urban pre-millennium tension. With Y2K. globalisation, cloning and a myriad of other cultural shifts taking place, OK Computer summed up how easy it was to feel lost in a changing world. The fact they managed this while producing a completely new sound makes it all the more amazing.
Anthony Lax, Sydney
My ex-wife used to hate it. Enough said
KJC Lownes, via e-mail
It defines an era, the soundtrack for a generation alienated by growing consumerism, mechanisation and loss of human contact. It was the culmination of five years of musical development within Radiohead and is as beautiful as it was groundbreaking.
Tim Swain, via e-mail
OK Computer has everything: daring jazz-fusion combined with science fiction, progressive rock with angst-ridden melancholy. Massive beauty and quiet fury. The best in British tradition and modernity.
Arne Johnsen, Oslo
I have my dad to blame for most of my musical tastes, especially Radiohead. I hadn't paid much attention to them until last year, when l took OK Computer off the shelf for the first time. Since then I can't stop listening to it. They remain my favourite band.
Lydia Thomas, Rugby
Every little nook and cranny of the record is just perfect.
Alex Dawson, via e-mail
Great just to listen to, but if you look deeper you will find even more satisfaction in the poignancy of the lyrics and Thon’s voice. Musical beauty itself. Amazing.
Al Newstead, via e-mail
I still have to build myself up to listen to it, but it’s a rewarding experience when I do. Nothing I’ve heard since has matched it.
Greta J, San Diego
If it can make a Scandinavian male weep, it must be something truly exceptional. Indispensable,
Timo Virkki, Helsinki
WWST “An emotionally draining, epic experience. Now Radiohead can definitely be ranked high among the world’s greatest bands.” Q130 *****
WHN Opted out of the rock superstar rat race with the challenging Kid A and Amnesiac, retained almost superhuman popularity.