Twenty Years Old Never Sounded So Amazing: OK Computer OKNOTOK

Like wine, Radiohead gets better with age. If Radiohead’s eerie, yet beautiful ninth album, A Moon Shaped Pool, failed to convince you of this fact, Radiohead’s 20th anniversary edition of OK Computer, OKNOTOK, surely will. OKNOTOK not only contains remastered versions of the original twelve tracks and all eight of the B-side tracks, but also features three previously unreleased tracks: “I Promise,” “Man of War” and Lift.” Unfortunately, because bands and artists have noticed that fewer and fewer people listen to tracks sequentially anymore, many no longer prioritize modifying and arranging their album’s tracks in a manner conducive to sequential listening. Radiohead, however, did not take this approach with OKNOTOK. From listening to the first track alone of OKNOTOK, one will notice that Radiohead went to great lengths to make their remastered album even more conducive to sequential listening than the original. The last three seconds of “Airbag,” instead of just ending, actually make up the original intro to the next track, “Paranoid Android.” By closing the gap between the two tracks, the change, although subtle, marks a huge improvement over the original. Overall, this flow remains noticeable throughout the entire album because of the noiseless seconds Radiohead shaved off the ends of its tracks. While these changes may seem minor to many, the seamless transitions truly give the album new life. The new tracks, meanwhile, fit seamlessly into the album’s themes of apprehension, uncertainty, injustice and ultimately, escape. Although Radiohead had completed the “new” tracks seen on OKNOTOK back in 1997, they did not release them, perhaps fearing they would not measure up to the rest of the album. For example, according to Apple Music’s synopsis of OKNOTOK, Thom Yorke claims Radiohead did not release the new track, “I Promise” twenty years ago “because we didn’t think it was good enough.” Even though Radiohead’s bonus tracks often sound better than most bands’ feature tracks, Radiohead, because of the importance they place on producing high quality music, will always remain Radiohead’s biggest critic. Nevertheless, “I Promise” definitely deserves its place in OKNOTOK. Featuring Thom Yorke’s melancholy voice, a guitar-driven melody, and occasional synth, “I Promise” gives listeners a comforting blend of sounds culminating together to make a peaceful ending. In the next track, “Man of War,” however, Radiohead throws listeners for a loop through an eerie combination of keyboard, synth, and screeching electric guitar. While perhaps unnerving to some listeners, the song’s grunge feel offers glimpses back into the sounds characteristic of Radiohead’s second album, The Bends.  The final “new” track, “Lift,” offers a transcendent look into the life of one “stuck in a lift.” Featuring some beautiful harmonies between synthesizer and Yorke’s voice, “Lift” succeeds in adding further lyrical depth to the original OK Computer. The rest of the album features all eight of the remastered B-side tracks, which, for the sake of brevity, I will not review. Yet, the last track, “How I Made My Millions,” deserves recognition. From the song’s inception, listener’s will notice a lack of audio quality and strange sounds in the background. Unlike the other tracks, Yorke recorded this song at home on his four-track recorder and the background noises consist of his girlfriend cleaning the house. Almost all of the tracks on OKNOTOK sound (despite the musical “chaos,” at times) polished and professional. However, one can not say the same about “How I Made My Millions.” Nevertheless, the raw coupling of piano with Yorke’s voice strikes listeners with a mesmerizing beauty and makes the song a brilliant conclusion to one of the greatest albums ever. So, even if you may wish to leave 2017 and all of its failures and successes in the past, do yourself a favor: sit down and listen in entirety to the remastered, full of “No Surprises” album, OK Computer OKNOTOK.

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