It’s time to settle an issue that has been dividing music fans for a long time. It’s a sensitive topic among a certain fan base that has sometimes gotten out of control. Similar to politics and religion, it shouldn’t be talked about at the dinner table.
It’s an issue where if even President Trump chose a side, protests would erupt and become violent. If you thought the Weezer’s ‘Blue’ versus ‘Pinkerton’ dispute was bad, you’re clearly not paying attention.
Hopefully, you have an idea already of what I am discussing, if not, I advise you to stop reading now and civilize yourself. It’s the debate between two of the best albums from one of the greatest bands in the past 25 years. It’s time to settle the debate between Radiohead’s 1997 release, “Ok Computer” and 2000 release, “Kid A.”
I know these are highly polarized times, but I am going to launch an argument and may receive death threats with my next statement: ‘Ok Computer’ is easily superior to ‘Kid A’ and here’s why. As much as I adore the highly innovative and experimental “Kid A,” I just think “Ok Computer” is more balanced with its ranges of influences that sounds more sophisticated. Furthermore, “Ok Computer” defined an era of unrestrained consumerism and political madness, later becoming the soundtrack to the Y2K hysteria.
Aside from “OK Computer” defining the alternative rock scene of the 1990s, it has aged extremely well. Not to mention, the album predicted the future in numerous ways: the public’s reaction towards the advancements of technology, social isolation and how, as a privileged-nation, people love pretending they are politically active by signing petitions, but don’t vote.
Not only was the album commercially successful and universally acclaimed, but it has been placed highly on numerous lists by outlets such as Rolling Stone and Pitchfork, to be one of the greatest albums of all time.
In 2015, Watchmojo, placed “Ok Computer” on the top ten list of most important albums in rock history. Some have even compared it to Pink Floyd’s historic 1973 album, “The Dark Side of the Moon.” However, “Ok Computer” is solely Radiohead’s “Sgt. Pepper.”
“Ok Computer” is an end-of-an-era Radiohead album. The group never again recorded songs like “Karma Police” and “No Surprises.” The album expanded Radiohead’s popularity and landscape of various styles to embark on; it’s where they made their mark. Without “Ok Computer” there would be no “Kid A.”
The problem surrounding “Kid A” is that a majority of the songs sound like wasted computer noise. It is radically experimental and unstable compared to its predecessor.
Radiohead shifted away from guitarist, Jonny Greenwood’s, supreme guitar work and replaced it with more synthesizers and drum machines upfront – basically becoming a modern Krautrock band.
They incorporate brass in places where it doesn’t belong. Personally, as much as I love the chaotic free jazz on the album, most notably, “The National Anthem,” the unlayering frenzy of brass and the overwhelming “beep, blorp, bops” sounds like the anarchic house band of “The Eric Andre Show.”
Even though the opening track, “Everything in Its Right Place,” is beautifully intense, it’s also extremely repetitive for an opener. This might be a classic Radiohead track, but it is nowhere as good as the soaring and biblical “Airbag,” which makes me want to do over 50 push-ups and never stop. However, “Everything in Its Right Place” comes off as humdrum because, Thom Yorke, frontman of Radiohead, was suffering from writer’s block at the time. The titled track “Motion Picture Soundtrack” sounds like the band dropped acid and started listening to a lot of New Order. Or maybe they wanted to assimilate to the French electronic music, which dominated the late ’90s.
“Kid A” is one of those albums that you have to listen to a couple of times to really get into, while “Ok Computer” is an instant classic on first listen. There are more forgettable tracks on “Kid A” such as the boring and lifeless “Treefingers,” than there are on “Ok Computer.”
Only a conceited, pretentious hipster would consider “Kid A” to be superior to the steely and heavy soundscapes under Yorke’s melancholic and intense vocals featured on “Ok Computer.” And these are most likely the same people who prefer the Velvet Underground’s “White Light/White Heat” to “The Velvet Underground and Nico.” (Yes, I just generalized Radiohead fans).
So enough with the nonsense all you beep, blorp, bop neurotics, who own various copies of the collectors edition of “Kid A.” Just be rational and admit something is good, even when everybody else does. There’s a reason why “Ok Computer” is universally hailed and overrated. Of course, “Kid A” is a great record – it’s fearless and it showed what Radiohead were truly capable of in the recording studio.
To be perfectly clear before somebody starts planning my death, “Kid A,” isn’t at all a terrible album. Just when compared to its predecessor, it looks like a ripen banana.
(Originally published in The Stylus college newspaper at The College at Brockport)