Music is the soundtrack to our lives. And on Christmas Day 2012, four days after the world was supposed to end, GuysNation columnist Bryan Lienesch was given the book ’1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die’. As he flipped through it, an idea dawned on him right then and there: he would attempt to knock all 1,001 albums off his list. Not just before he dies, but as fast as life would allow.
This is the Bucket Beats List.
When a band comes out and says their own work is overrated, fans should take that under advisement. That’s exactly what the British band Radiohead said once their third, OK Computer, album skyrocketed as a critical success.
Don’t get me wrong, OK Computer is good, but it’s in conversations every day as one of the best albums EVER. I wouldn’t dare go that far. Let’s think for a minute what it means to be the best record of all time. How many great productions out there do you have to top? Led Zeppelin’s IV. The Beatles’ Revolver. Nirvana’s Nevermind. That’s tough company.
In order to beat ALL that, every note has to be spot on. In OK Computer, the first five tracks save for Paranoid Android are nothing more than dreary elevator music. The fourth track, for example, ‘Exit Music (For a Film)’, instills just what its title describes: the notion that it’s time to walk out. Suffice it to say, it’s not “Best Album of all Time” material.
‘Karma Police’ offers some hope with its sublime darkness, but then the album goes right back to making you pull out your hair with ‘Fitter Happier’. A song with no vocals except for a Stephen Hawking-esque text-to-speech voice that was programmed on a MacBook, I can honestly say the track is the dumbest recording Radiohead has ever and will ever publish. Is there a message in it? Sure. But it’s far, far from music. If I wanted to hear synthesized, computer-generated talent, I’d listen to Beyonce’s national anthem.
Admittedly, ‘Fitter Happier’ is rock bottom for the record and it does get a lot better from there. ‘Electioneering’ and ‘Climbing Up The Walls’ allow the band’s album to show it has dynamic range beyond just ‘Paranoid Android’. While it’s a welcome change for your ears, it’ll frustrate the pink sponge in between them knowing that Radiohead had this in them while they meandered along in the beginning of the record.
‘Paranoid Android’, by the way, is easily the best track on the album. Starting out in the same hum-drum rhythm’s that practically lulled you to sleep in ‘Airbag’, the song eventually builds up to a crescendo where it unleashes a head-banging, face-melting thrash of a riff. It’s a moment of clear, musical genius that is gone much faster than it came. And while you’re disappointed it doesn’t continue, you are better off for having heard it.
As I already said, ‘Karma Police’ is also pretty good. If I had to sum up the band in just one song, it would probably be this. The combination of sweet melodies playing background to decidedly dark lyrics is a style the quintet has delved into plenty over the years, but it’s never closer to being perfect than it is for these four minutes and twenty one seconds.
So if you’re looking for one word to describe ‘OK Computer’, I suppose it would be inconsistent. If you could get two words? FRUSTRATINGLY inconsistent. It’s best parts point out to you just how talented the band is and what amount of genius lies within them, but then the forgettable recordings like ‘Let Down’ are, well, just that.
It’s high praise will forever have it in the ‘best album ever’ discussion, but if you ask me, the telling ranking comes from Rolling Stone, where ‘OK Computer’ sat at just number 162 in 2005.
I myself would probably put it lower. But, then again, we’re only five records in to this adventure.
2. Karma Police
1. Paranoid Android
Least favorite tracks?
3. The Tourist
2. Subterranean Homesick Alien
1. Fitter Happier
Do you really need to listen to this album before you die?
If you plan on getting into debates as to what album is the greatest, you should know your stuff. Otherwise? Nah.
When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Make sure to give him a follow @bclienesch for social media shenanigans!