The first half of the year is nearly over and musicwise 2017 has been good to us. A lot of good records have been released: The Gorillaz came back after seven years and Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. is one of the most thought out hip hop albums of the last few years. Even though it was released on the 23th of June 2017, this year’s best record is twenty years old – Radiohead’s OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997 2017.
The re-released version of 1997’s OK Computer comes with the whole album remastered, eight remastered B-sides and three unreleased tracks: I Promise, Man of War and fan favorite Lift, which Radiohead omitted from OK Computer mostly because they feared its possible success. The more you listen to it, the more you will understand. But it’s not the three “new” songs or the remastered versions of old classics which makes the album as good as it is.
When OK Computer was written and recorded, the internet was a vague idea to most people and computers as well as cell phones had just begun to get into private households. Still, Radiohead created an album which predicted the future and the influence of technology on people quite well. The music video to OKNOTOK’s second single Man of War is the perfect example. While in 1997 the music video for Karma Police shows a man in brown trousers and a white shirt getting chased by a car, in 2017 a man in brown trousers and a white shirt is chased by people, or, you could say, followers. In times of politicans like Trump and May lyrics like “I will stop, I will stop at nothing / Say the right things when electioneering / I trust I can rely on your vote” from OK Computer’s eighth track Electioneering, are more up to date than ever.
It was an unpleasant experience at a bar in Los Angeles Thom Yorke had which inspired him to write Paranoid Android. “Please, could you stop the noise? I’m trying to get some rest / From all the unborn chicken voices in my head” and “Ambition makes you look pretty ugly / kicking, squealing Gucci little piggy”. What happened in a bar over twenty years ago seems to happen to us every day. We are getting overwhelmed with noises on social media, posted by people awfully ambitious to present themself in the best way possible, even if it’s a distorted reality.
Although Millennials might be the wealthiest generation yet, living under the best circumstances we have ever had and having the most oppurtunities to be and become whatever we want, we crumble. We crumble under competitive battles and society’s pressure, under our wealth and fears for the future. We have to function at the highest level and nobody seems to be fine with just living a “regular” life. It’s a thin line we are walking on: between making the most of our lives, enjoying everything to the fullest and not losing control and going off the rails. And Radiohead knew.
“Fitter, happier, more productive… Not drinking too much / Regular exercise at the gym… No more microwave dinners and saturated fats / A patient, better driver / A safer car… Now self-employed / Concerned but powerless / An empowered and informed member of society / Pragmatism not idealism / Will not cry in public… A pig in a cage on antibiotics”
Fitter Happier, which is kind of the theme song of OK Computer, is arguably the song which deacribes the zeitgeist better than anything else. Twenty years after it was written and released.