The ripcord being pulled on the opening track “Airbag” comes from the jingling of sleigh bells and a guitar that is warped, but not too far removed from reality. Thom Yorke’s vocal performance is a revitalization for warmth that embodies the listener and provides some well needed human touch to a record that paints a more synthetic draw. The work of “Airbag” and the way that OK Computer adopts to fit Jonny Greenwood, Phil Selway, Colin Greenwood, and Ed O’Brien into one vacuum-sealed compartment is still a fit of broken shine.
At points, OK Computer wants to be a rock record that is able to still rip through orchestral backings and be able to form these monument cuts to the Radiohead belt. Then at other times, primarily through tracks like “Exit Music (For A Film) or the interlude “Fitter Happier,” there is an unquenchable misery that hangs over the record like a blackened storm cloud. Always lingering through the robotic speech that continues to shatter on “Fitter Happier,” hearing the robotic and inhumane feel as the voice explains, “Fitter, happier, more productive, comfortable, (not drinking too much), regular exercise at the gym, (three days a week)… A safer car (baby smiling in back seat), sleeping well (no bad dreams), no paranoia…” that sticks out as if it was a cracked mirror on the record.
Each push-through OK Computer feels like a somber gauntlet with less of care for fitting in and more of a realization that the narrator or adventure we follow is a series of ill-formed cuts from material cloth. As Radiohead tires to push through this metamorphosis, tracks like “Lucky” stand as a beacon of musical hope but a narration of plane crashes and the emerge from water. “Kill me, Sarah, Kill me again with love. It’s gonna be a glorious day, pull me out of the air crash. Pull me out of the lake, cause I’m your superhero, we are standing on the edge.” The brushes that Yorke can illustrate are explosive and as Radiohead segues into “The Tourist,” the final track hold a boundless range beyond it.
As “The Tourist” opens, there is this somewhat calming closure that follows from the rest of the animatronic chaos that is OK Computer. At every turn, OK Computer is not only an impressive record that handles some devastating weight but the modern-day equivalent to the record ties in directly to how the last note is played. The single triangle strike resonates with a perfect wrap on a difficult pill to swallow.