Review: Radiohead – OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997 2017

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The re-release to Radiohead's masterpiece is as relevant now as ever before. OKNOTOK is, somehow, a significant commentary on the present day pulled from the past.

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Radiohead are a band endlessly in transition. Their albums form almost indefinable time capsules of musical time periods which, when revisited even 20 years on, appear to have been written tomorrow. OK Computer’s original release in ’97 reflects a shift in British rock, initiating a deviation from Britpop toward a more ethereal melancholy. And it’s re-release OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997 2017, arrives in a new era and a new century, a future of machines which OK Computer prophecizes with its saddened technological acceptance. In addition to the original, we have now been treated with the remastering of its initial track list alongside three previously un-released tracks, ‘I Promise,’ ‘Man Of War,’ and ‘Lift’ among eight B-sides.

The new releases are the biggest treat on offer. ‘I Promise’ makes for a passive melody on powerless devotion to a failing cause; ‘Man of War,’ a ballad which could easily be mistaken for another lost Bond theme to sit beside the criminally unused ‘Spectre’ and ‘Lift,’ Yorke’s self-evaluative narrative of escape and coming home. This triptych, excluded from OK Computer and rarely heard since (save for several one off live performances) exemplify a band with enough talent and restraint to suppress three pieces which are at a standard most bands can only dream of.

‘Polyethelyne’ provides the ideal song to silence recent critics of their Glastonbury headline set, a 6-string heavy thrill guided by a climactic structure enthused by Phil Selway’s drums. This more visceral, guitar driven sound which dominates the album and its additions will please fans still skeptical of the band’s progression into a synth driven electronica. Whilst for the fans who are more on board with the morphing sensibilities of Radiohead, OKNOTOK provides a precious contribution to a practically flawless back catalog.

OKNOTOK plays with a drifting insomnia, still gazing forward despite reaching back to old work. Radiohead’s expansion to their culturally iconic masterwork proceeds with a sense of continued social alienation and emotional distance. Quietly critical of the coming influx of consumerism, its nose pressed firmly against the outside of a shop window looking in. It’s a special addition which is more than OK; it’s a perfectly timed re-release which offers a viewpoint of our times as dystopic, written not in hindsight but in foresight. OKNOTOK is possibly the most present release of 2017, and it was created 20 years ago.

OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997-2017 is out now via XL Recordings 

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Second year Film student. Twentieth year Film lover.

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