Radiohead burst onto the Britpop scene in the early 1990s with a clamorous, post-U2 take on guitar rock, buoyed by the hit "Creep." They subsequently developed their songwriting and production skills on THE BENDS and achieved iconic status with their breakthrough album OK COMPUTER, making art-rock cool again in the process. The mercurial band's long-awaited follow-up three years later was a sharp left turn full of ambient electronics and Can-like sonic deconstruction, and they've continued the trend with subsequent albums and solo projects. The connecting thread through all the band's phases has been Thom Yorke's intense vocal frenzy.
Radiohead's third album got compared to Pink Floyd a lot when it came out, and its slow drama and conceptual sweep certainly put it in that category. OK Computer, though, is a complicated and difficult record: an album about the way machines dehumanize people that's almost entirely un-electronic; an album by a British "new wave of new wave" band that rejects speed and hooks in favor of languorous texture and morose details; a sad and humanist record whose central moment is Thom Yorke crooning "We hope that you choke." Sluggish, understated, and hard to get a grip on, OK Computer takes a few listens to appreciate, but its entirety means more than any one song. --Douglas Wolk
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