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Seemingly granted classic album status within days of its release in 1997, OK Computer transformed Radiohead from a highly promising rock act into The Most Important Band in the World a label the band has been burdened by (and has fooled around with) ever since. Through close musical analysis of each song, Dai Griffiths explores the themes and ideas that have made this alb Seemingly granted classic album status within days of its release in 1997, OK Computer transformed Radiohead from a highly promising rock act into The Most Important Band in the World a label the band has been burdened by (and has fooled around with) ever since. Through close musical analysis of each song, Dai Griffiths explores the themes and ideas that have made this album resonate so deeply with its audience, and argues that OK Computer is one of the most successfully realized CD albums so far created.


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Seemingly granted classic album status within days of its release in 1997, OK Computer transformed Radiohead from a highly promising rock act into The Most Important Band in the World a label the band has been burdened by (and has fooled around with) ever since. Through close musical analysis of each song, Dai Griffiths explores the themes and ideas that have made this alb Seemingly granted classic album status within days of its release in 1997, OK Computer transformed Radiohead from a highly promising rock act into The Most Important Band in the World a label the band has been burdened by (and has fooled around with) ever since. Through close musical analysis of each song, Dai Griffiths explores the themes and ideas that have made this album resonate so deeply with its audience, and argues that OK Computer is one of the most successfully realized CD albums so far created.

30 review for OK Computer

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jpeeples

    What a crap book. The author spends nearly a third of the book talking about how LPs are different from CDs, without mentioning Radiohead AT ALL. This hardly seems relevant because while "OK Computer" was released on an LP, it's pretty rare and so most listeners only know the album on CD. And when he does fold Radiohead into the discussion of how "OK Computer" is a "CD album," the treatment is pretty minimal. He also name-checks obsessively, but usually drops literary names, not names What a crap book. The author spends nearly a third of the book talking about how LPs are different from CDs, without mentioning Radiohead AT ALL. This hardly seems relevant because while "OK Computer" was released on an LP, it's pretty rare and so most listeners only know the album on CD. And when he does fold Radiohead into the discussion of how "OK Computer" is a "CD album," the treatment is pretty minimal. He also name-checks obsessively, but usually drops literary names, not names from music or rock music -- Philip Larkin, Matthew Arnold (laboriously comparing Thom Yorke's voice to "sweetness and light" -- ugh). And then there's the tedious, pointless quantification -- he counts how many measures each song's various sections contain, the time signatures, the track lengths, whether the songs are "wordy" or not, whether the lines employ verbs or nouns, etc. But then he doesn't perform any actual analysis; he doesn't tell us what all this means, or why we should even bother counting all these details. Most of his analysis amounts merely to describing the songs, as if we haven't heard them before, instead of providing any extra insight into the songs' structure, lyrics, or inspirations. For example, in discussing "Exit Music (for a Film)": "'Sing' and 'song' balance each other, 'now' and 'one' recall each other. 'Wake-dreams' and 'pack-dressed' connect alliteratively. . . . 'Tears' rhymes with 'hears', and 'everlasting peace' finally breaks the pattern altogether. . . . 'Exit Music' thus seems like a carefully constructed song, perhaps more so than some of the more singable songs." Really? You think that "Exit Music" by Radiohead is a "carefully constructed song"? Brilliant. This is freshman composition-class-caliber writing of the most banal kind.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ian Mathers

    The second of three 33 1/3 books I've borrowed from a friend and am taking entirely too long to read. The previous one, on Donuts, I just might buy myself at some point. This one I am glad I did not. Here are a collection of more or less specific things that I honestly believe to be true about criticism/aesthetics/critical writing/what have you: - You don't have to love, or in fact feel any particular way, about the art you are tackling in order for the result to be good - Yo The second of three 33 1/3 books I've borrowed from a friend and am taking entirely too long to read. The previous one, on Donuts, I just might buy myself at some point. This one I am glad I did not. Here are a collection of more or less specific things that I honestly believe to be true about criticism/aesthetics/critical writing/what have you: - You don't have to love, or in fact feel any particular way, about the art you are tackling in order for the result to be good - You can freely admit to the reader in your introduction that you picked your subject to some degree because you thought it would be popular rather than because you care about it or have anything specific to say about it, and the result could still be entertaining/edifying/insightful/'good' - There is no one true, correct, righteous way to create criticism (or any other art); when it comes to writing about music, for example, there is excellent criticism that draws deeply on musicology, and excellent criticism that doesn't contain a single instance of information, knowledge, or insight drawn from that discipline. There is excellent criticism that discusses the writer's personal life at length and depth, and excellent criticism that just about faints at the idea of that. If you are good enough you can make just about anything 'work'. - To be more specific, I think academic musicology can be a perfectly fine thing to center a lengthy critical work around; there's no particular reason that, done well, it has to be boring or stodgy or feel like the writer is refusing to engage with (for example) the fact that music might make the writer themself or other listeners actually feel things, sometimes even in ways that can't be reduced to describing what key its in, or how fast it moves, or what types of words are in the lyrics. - To be even more, pointedly, bloodymindedly specific, I think it could very well work out to do something like taking "Fitter Happier" and listing it line-by-line, noting in each case whether there are parentheses in the written lyrics, whether the line includes verbs/is in the present tense or not, what the music is doing at the time, whether the line is 'negative' or not, etc. and even though in description this process seems like a numbingly pointless exercise, you could make it pay off, if you were a good enough writer and had some point to make through this kind of dissection. (It would help, however, if you didn't get so wrapped up in staring at the individual trees in the forest that you don't, say, only consider the closing "a pig/in a cage/on antibiotics" as three separate statements without even alluding to the possibility that it might be one descriptive passage elongated for effect. Emotional effect, even.) - There is no set format for this kind of critical work, and furthermore there is no content or type of content that must be included (or, conversely, must not be included) in order for the work to be worthwhile and valid. Done with enough skill, a piece of criticism could conceivably get away with never mentioning the name of the artwork or creator; done with enough skill, almost any high-concept scheme could be applied to the work, or indeed the work could eschew any sort of formal flair whatsoever; done with enough skill, the critical work could well be fictional and still a success as a piece of criticism (see certain other volumes in this series or, say, glenn mcdonald's review on The War Against Silence of Life Without Buildings' sole album). But all different approaches do not come with the same degree of difficulty or potential depth of failure. So you could, to again use a pointed example, devote a solid 45 pages of your 123-page book to basically not talking about or engaging with your subject matter, and it could work, but you would either have to make it so interesting in and of itself that it doesn't matter to the reader that it's basically unconnected (and even then you'd probably need to at least make your pivot to your ostensible subject land), or you'd have to pay off that material in a significant way later in the book. And if neither of those things happen, you run the risk of the reader wondering why you spent so much time on it anyway. Ok, it's pretty obvious that I'm mad at this book. The temptation to go almost page-by-page and point out all the missed opportunities, the weird biases that are treated axiomatically instead of argued for (maybe they're inside baseball in the world of musicology - to most readers, that won't matter), the things that aren't talked about, the sheer amount of work that is taken not to analyse anything about the album but just to depict it or categorize it in various ways that then sit inert on the page, our author seeming to think that just presenting the information is sufficient for criticism (and again, theoretically this could work, but in this case the information is neither interesting or enlightening enough on its face to be presented without more comment, nor is its arrangement or juxtaposition doing any of the necessary work), etc etc etc. But the reason I took the tack above is because maybe what makes me the most angry about this book is that it lands on the wrong side of all of the above so strongly (in such a short time!) that it tempts one to reactionary positions; it would be so easy to castigate Griffiths using a lazy and incorrect argument like, well, they should have gotten someone who loves the album to write about it. Or, this is not the way anyone should write about music (i.e. don't bring musicology to the table at all, rather than specifically criticizing the way he uses musicology poorly). That's awful and corrosive and so I'm doing my best to push back against my desire to do so. I'll end with one more general point I wish this work had been aware of, or kept in mind: beware of making claims that are easily falsifiable by your readers, because no matter how bog standard, obvious, inarguable or innocuous you may think they are, rest assured at least some of your readers will be able in fact to falsify them from their own experience. The almost inevitable result is that the claims you make with equal confidence that they can't already falsify are likely to feel hollow. Here's an example of both this and the biggest flaw in this book, its steadfast refusal to actually make arguments and pay off things it sets up: In fact, what this album sounds like as 'pure music', music without words, can be checked by listening to the recording of OK Computer in its entirety by a string quartet, and there'll be further discussion of that in the final chapter. Plenty of people who listen to Radiohead could tell you that the experience of listening to OK Computer without the vocal tracks versus the string quartet version of the album are sufficiently different (in ways that may or may not be musicologically significant but are certainly significant in other ways!) that referring to them both as being what this album sounds like as 'pure music' feels outright ridiculous, unless by 'pure music' you mean something beyond the definition given here, "music without words" (in which case you should have provided that definition!). There will not be any further discussion of this point, unless the "that" towards the end of the quotation means just the string quartet recording itself, which is mentioned in passing without following up this point in any meaningful way. Basically you're left with a volume that says things like "why on earth would a piece of music without words repeat a verse section?" This is bad, not because the implicit position isn't potentially interesting or arguably true (I'd argue it, but I'm not already convinced I'm right), but because it both leaves the question unanswered from its own perspective (i.e. here's why you shouldn't do that) and genuinely can't seem to imagine what someone else's answer might be (i.e. here's why you might want to do that). It's enough to have you muttering "we hope your rules and wisdom choke you" under your breath.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    Griffiths's little book was interesting, though less enlightening about OK Computer than it was about other things. The beginning stuff about the differences between vinyl and CD formats was interesting, though his explanation of how OK Computer fit into that discussion was rather underwhelming. Course, the whole book was a bit underwhelming; lots of promising looking avenues that we lingered near, but ultimately didn't drive down. Griffiths spent more time talking around the album than he did talkin Griffiths's little book was interesting, though less enlightening about OK Computer than it was about other things. The beginning stuff about the differences between vinyl and CD formats was interesting, though his explanation of how OK Computer fit into that discussion was rather underwhelming. Course, the whole book was a bit underwhelming; lots of promising looking avenues that we lingered near, but ultimately didn't drive down. Griffiths spent more time talking around the album than he did talking about it, which for such a short book as this seems kinda silly to me. I'm fine with him not referring to interviews and external stuff like that, except when he then doesn't get down to gleaning much from the album itself. He lays out the formal elements quite well, but follows it up with little to no opinion or interpretation. Track times, key signatures, number of measures, etc.: all very nice, except when that's all you have. I like a little interpretation/explanation with my charts. It seems like he was just throwing it out there and expected us to shape our own interpretation based on the provided information, which, when writing a book, doesn't seem like the best move - isn't the point of writing a book like this to contribute something to the already existing discussion? I'm not a musicologist, so maybe I'm missing something. There were flutterings of coolness there, but I never felt like any of it blossomed into a tangible, identifiable point. As far as I can tell, this book talks a lot, but says little.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ben Winch

    Sometimes the success of certain artists or artworks makes me feel as if I've been transported to the Twilight Zone. Critics, friends, people from all walks of life will be raving about something and all I can think is 'What the f**k is going on here?!!' The phenomenal critical and commercial success of Radiohead is a case in point. Many a time during the inexorable swelling of their fame have I heard that unmistakable fingernails-on-a-blackboard whine that is Thom Yorke's vocal style and thought Sometimes the success of certain artists or artworks makes me feel as if I've been transported to the Twilight Zone. Critics, friends, people from all walks of life will be raving about something and all I can think is 'What the f**k is going on here?!!' The phenomenal critical and commercial success of Radiohead is a case in point. Many a time during the inexorable swelling of their fame have I heard that unmistakable fingernails-on-a-blackboard whine that is Thom Yorke's vocal style and thought to myself, 'How can this be happening?' As to the music, oftentimes it sounds like some cobbled-together-in-the-studio we-mixed-all-the-colours-together-and-got-brown addicted-to-Protools shit, a style that all us home-recordists (not to mention most rich bands with unlimited studio time) have stumbled upon at some time or other but, maybe cos so few of us have major label deals, Rolling Stone and NME still think is cutting-edge. OK Computer is at the epicentre of the reality disturbance. 'Paranoid Android', the obligatory rock epic - am I the only one who finds that riffage end-section totally uninspired? I'd swear they just jammed over a click-track then cut-and-pasted the sections together. 'Karma Police' - British backpacker singalong par-excellence: soft, fey, soporific, everything that's bad about The Smiths with none of the humour or the rockabilly. ('For a minute there I lost myself' repeated ad nauseum - oh the irony!) 'Exit Music For a Film', despite the dreadful title, is OK I guess. And 'No Surprises' is almost tuneful, if only it wasn't Yorkey singing, but hardly world-changing. An interesting/infuriating aspect of the Twilight Zone phenomenon is the way fans will defend these works. Call OK Computer cold or artificial, for eg, and they'll say, 'But it's meant to be that way.' Apparently it's the 'concept', man. Well I'm a big believer that if a record (or book, film, play, painting) needs a concept to justify itself then maybe it just ain't all it's cracked up to be. Sure, conceptualise away, but it's no defence of soullessness, even if the concept is the death of the soul. And the book? Possibly the worst in the series - certainly in the bottom five. Is it coincidence that this pretentious half-baked album is celebrated by an even more pretentious and half-baked book?

  5. 5 out of 5

    Adam Witt

    Is it possible to give a book negative stars? I'd give this Minus Five Stars. You could toy with the idea of giving this a second star because Dai Griffiths brings forth a lot of really interesting music history, comparative criticism (often hopping to Philip Larkin or Bob Dylan, the second of which has been done to death, the former being a serious reach), and the way he weaves the idea of "CD and Cassette and Vinyl as Artifacts" together. That's all valid and good, but th Is it possible to give a book negative stars? I'd give this Minus Five Stars. You could toy with the idea of giving this a second star because Dai Griffiths brings forth a lot of really interesting music history, comparative criticism (often hopping to Philip Larkin or Bob Dylan, the second of which has been done to death, the former being a serious reach), and the way he weaves the idea of "CD and Cassette and Vinyl as Artifacts" together. That's all valid and good, but the name of the fucking book is OK Computer. The book does not talk about OK Computer for almost fifty pages. Fifty. 50. Dai Griffiths is a smart dude, to be sure. There are some very clinical breakdowns, getting deep into literary, musical, and even, to a point, scientific (with the passage of time) theory. For every bit of that, there's an equal amount of condescending, borderline-abrasive 'talk' toward the reader. Dai Griffiths seems to look at OK Computer and, by extension, the people who read this book, as enemies. If not enemies, just something else he needs to put under the scalpel. He spends the majority of the book trying to, seemingly, outsmart OK Computer. Well -- great. Cool. Not every book, even a 33 1/3, needs to be a celebration. However: I barely listen to pop music on purpose (not because I'm above it, so help me god, I just never got the taste buds for it and some people have faulty taste buds) and you can tell how much this guy hates pop music. As an Elevated Intellectual In The Field Of Music Criticism, he sure wants to let you know, but in the most passive-aggressive way possible, because to say that pop music is uncool is to be a Bad Critic and a Bad Intellectual. Then, here's some stuff to chew on: Why do you spend so much real estate of the book and the reader's time by antagonizing? If OK Computer is the first album to take full advantage of the CD as a concept, why does Let Down, for your criticism of it, need to be there? Because we could have hit the Skip button? That's a third-grade logical fallacy, dude! You take away 1 from 6 and it doesn't equal 6 anymore, you dipshit! How many times are you going to quote Bob Dylan talking about pop music in a positive light, and then drag it sideways? Aren't you just mashing your keyboard like everybody else by bringing Dylan into the picture in the first place? Why do you drift from talking about theorists like they're your next-door neighbors or teaching buddies, to some kind of half-assed reverence? Do you even like this album? Frankly, Dai: what the fuck are you talking about? Not inasmuch as the readers can't decipher your big talk, so much as why do you think you're better than every form you're taking the time to pour gas on and blow up. As much as this thing would love to be a great book about music theory, it's not. It's a shitty book about a great album, that thinks it's an amazing book about that album that came out that one time. That's all valid and good. But the name of the fucking book is OK Computer.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Luke Wagner

    This book was a fun, quick read. A little less than 120 pages devoted to Radiohead’s third studio album “OK Computer.” Griffiths did a wonderful job at giving helpful background concerning the history of terms such as “album” and “record,” and the effects that history’s transition from “vinyl”—33 1/3’s and 45’s—to “CD” had on the creation of music in popular culture music. Personally, I would have preferred more of an emphasis placed on the lyrical content, thematic elements, and cultural world This book was a fun, quick read. A little less than 120 pages devoted to Radiohead’s third studio album “OK Computer.” Griffiths did a wonderful job at giving helpful background concerning the history of terms such as “album” and “record,” and the effects that history’s transition from “vinyl”—33 1/3’s and 45’s—to “CD” had on the creation of music in popular culture music. Personally, I would have preferred more of an emphasis placed on the lyrical content, thematic elements, and cultural world surrounding the album “OK Computer,” for I think much can be said about these topics, and I simply find it more interesting than the history of music and music theory. Griffiths is a clever, funny, and quick-witted writer. It is evident from this work that he is knowledgeable not only about depressing 90’s progressive rock music, but music throughout the centuries, as well as the vast array of voices speaking about these things. My rating of only 2 stars out of a 5-star ranking system does not reflect the quality of the book in and of itself, but rather my assessment of it based on how much I enjoyed reading through Griffith’s work. He has done a good service to Yorke and Radiohead!

  7. 4 out of 5

    John

    I should probably start this review by saying that my favorite Radiohead album is Pablo Honey. There, I said it, and I’ve listened to them all. I’m no musicologist, and unlike many Radiohead fans (including one particularly obnoxious ex-girlfriend) I don’t pretend to be one. I also liked The Bends, and to an extent I also like OK Computer, though I see it as a marked shift for the band from making music that I enjoy, to making music that I appreciate (and, to be fair, periodically enjoy). The pr I should probably start this review by saying that my favorite Radiohead album is Pablo Honey. There, I said it, and I’ve listened to them all. I’m no musicologist, and unlike many Radiohead fans (including one particularly obnoxious ex-girlfriend) I don’t pretend to be one. I also liked The Bends, and to an extent I also like OK Computer, though I see it as a marked shift for the band from making music that I enjoy, to making music that I appreciate (and, to be fair, periodically enjoy). The primary draw for me has always been their ability to rock out convincingly with that three-guitar attack, and I think Thom Yorke’s voice is at its best when he stops whispering and starts shouting. (Sorry, had to throw that in.) I also read these 33 1/3/s ravenously, and I honestly thought that, despite the reviews, this volume might be elucidating. I wanted Dai Griffiths, a musicologist, to show me why this is a Very Important Album. Alas, he doesn’t. Quite the opposite, in fact. The analysis of the album, when he finally – on page 47 of 116 – gets to it, is mind-numbingly soulless, filled with artspeak and vague, unsubstantiated allusions and connections that place Radiohead alongside classical composers like Beethoven and Brahms, folkies like Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins, and writers like Philip Larkin and Matthew Arnold. The stuff he writes on Radiohead ends up reading like a cacophony of everything I’ve been putting up with from my Radiohead-savant friends for the last fifteen years, with summations like this: “The way the music works out means that the song ends on a questioning dominant chord, an ‘imperfect cadence’ as the theory exams used to put it.” Griffiths seems to have a knee-jerk aversion to anything emotionally engaging (he dismisses “Let Down,” perhaps the most overtly emotive song in the collection), and also has a tendency toward bean-counting, coming up with a lot of tables, formulas, and equations that he rarely substantiates with overt analysis; this kind of stuff I tended to skim over, and I’m not a skimmer. But about pages 1-47, the stuff that’s not specifically about Radiohead. I’ve seen quite a few reviewers complain that he takes too long in getting to the album itself, and I can understand that frustration. But I personally think that first 47-page chapter, about the development of the album as a form, from the time it was an actual “album” of 78s, to its battle with the 45 single, to the notion of the two-sided album, and finally to the notion of the CD (read: continuous play) album of which he posits OK Computer as a shining example, is not only the most important part of the book, but it actually is a wonderful opus for the entire 33 1/3 series of books celebrating the record album. Also, the final 20 pages, in which he uses the pretext of figuring the future of OK Computer in the new media landscape as an excuse to decry the separation of musician and music critic, are also pretty engaging, though he gets a bit over-the-top in his advocacy of sheet music and notation, stating, “There’s still every need to learn how to read music: not being able to do so is another indication of the lazy, slobby aspect of computer- and tv- centered life, which also plays straight into the hands of scummy, dumbing-down capitalists,” less than a page after freely admitting that Thom Yorke doesn’t know how to read music. His anti-corporate argument (which I’m always open to), in which he aligns the very idea of a “classic album” with an industry that’s systematically devalued black and female singers, is a powerful coda. In other words, this book about Radiohead is at its best, and by that I mean most bearable, when its author isn’t writing about Radiohead.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Simon

    This book was so frustratingly shitty I nearly threw it across the room. Griffiths's "analysis" of the album is so transparently weighted in favour of his nonsensical thesis that it's almost laughable, with facts, figures, and anecdotes cherry-picked, slanted, and outright misrepresented to prop up whatever the hell it is he's trying to say. An inept and charmless writer, he subjects us to pages of irrelevant arithmetic in support of no coherent argument and drags us through the entir This book was so frustratingly shitty I nearly threw it across the room. Griffiths's "analysis" of the album is so transparently weighted in favour of his nonsensical thesis that it's almost laughable, with facts, figures, and anecdotes cherry-picked, slanted, and outright misrepresented to prop up whatever the hell it is he's trying to say. An inept and charmless writer, he subjects us to pages of irrelevant arithmetic in support of no coherent argument and drags us through the entire history of recorded music without making a single point, all the while flouting a pretense of being a Very Serious Music Writer. An embarrassment to the 33⅓ imprint and my bookshelf alike.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Clint

    There are countless opinions out there about Radiohead and their music, but Dai's decision to look at OK Computer as a New Critic gave more insight on the "album" than I've ever seen. His academic approach to the "classic" album took a piece of music I already love to even greater height.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Gabe Durham

    My sense is that 33 1/3 eventually moved away from this sort of "doctoral thesis passed off as pop culture book" model. Hidden in here are some interesting ideas someone could one day write a book about.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    Somewhere in here is the beginning of a good book about OK Computer.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    I have to admit, this was one of my least favorite books in the entire series so far. With the recently reissued album on my mind, I was hoping for some added insight - but this just fails to deliver on any level. Even setting aside the author's absolutely bizarre fixation on "intros" and "outros" as being wasteful, I just couldn't find anything to connect with. I won't begrudge anyone's approach to how music moves them, but I couldn't relate to such a mechanical, statistical approach to music.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Jones

    This book is the Rickroll of books. I've never read a book thatfekr so much like a purposeful troll of it's readers. This book barely talked about Radiohead at all and when it did it was just a list of song lengths and lyrics. If you want to read an actual good analysis of OK Computer check this book out instead. https://youtu.be/oHg5SJYRHA0

  14. 4 out of 5

    pianogal

    Not a great book. Better than the last one on Aqualung. Author just keeps getting too academic about an inherently non-academic subject. Also, what was up with all the majorly long quotes at the beginning of each section? Half of the words in this book came from someone else. Weird right?

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jemiah Jefferson

    I really didn't care for this book at all, despite (or because?) the fact that OK Computer is one of my favorite albums of all time. This writer, bless his heart, focused on almost entirely the least interesting aspects of the songs, the recording, and the history of popular music that led to the creation of the record in the first place. I've deeply enjoyed books that focused more on music theory approaches to certain pop music (the book "Tell Me Why" not only taught me a lot about the Beatles I really didn't care for this book at all, despite (or because?) the fact that OK Computer is one of my favorite albums of all time. This writer, bless his heart, focused on almost entirely the least interesting aspects of the songs, the recording, and the history of popular music that led to the creation of the record in the first place. I've deeply enjoyed books that focused more on music theory approaches to certain pop music (the book "Tell Me Why" not only taught me a lot about the Beatles but actually inculcated more music theory knowledge than an entire year-long academic course managed to do), but there's something about this book that just did not connect with me at all. By far my least favorite of the 33 1/3 series I've read so far, and a real wasted opportunity, not to mention a waste of my time even though I skipped and skimmed extensively.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Richard Leo

    The TL;DR: One definitely for the fans, but also those interested in general musicology. Fascinating read that delves into the history and theory of what makes an album 'classic' to ascertain whether this album deserves the accolades and status it has received. My first read of a series discovered by accident. And a wise choice it was too. This is a book not just for the fan, but also for anyone interested in the history and theory of popular music, strands of thought which Dai Griffi The TL;DR: One definitely for the fans, but also those interested in general musicology. Fascinating read that delves into the history and theory of what makes an album 'classic' to ascertain whether this album deserves the accolades and status it has received. My first read of a series discovered by accident. And a wise choice it was too. This is a book not just for the fan, but also for anyone interested in the history and theory of popular music, strands of thought which Dai Griffiths applies with aplomb. He places the release of this album in its cultural context, after the demise of Britpop, and in the long tradition of popular music 'albums' whilst asking appropriate questions about the impact that technology is having on the creation and production of music in the 21st century. Published before the ongoing impact of streaming services and the individuation of single tracks bought through 'my-tunes' has been fully felt, his discussion of technology on the production of music over the 20th century and the meaning of how 'OK Computer' sits in this historic pantheon of 'classic albums' is prescient. As he discusses each track in turn, Griffiths effectively intones a disaffected style, reminiscent of music publications from the era, in a way that makes you want to call up the album from the dark recesses of your streaming service of choice, turn off the shuffle option and appreciate the album as it was (perhaps?) intended. Even the artwork of the album deserves appraisal by Griffths as does the ongoing cultural context of Radiohead and their ongoing artistic releases. At times it does feel as though that Griffiths is trying to deliberately labour a point he has made several times already and the brief anecdotal-style sections at the end of each chapter read as though they are half-formed thought-bubbles. That aside, the overall impact of the book is an effective treatment of the cultural, technological and historical context in which this album is released. One definitely for the fans, but also those interested in general musicology.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alex V.

    I've always felt OK Computer was a new kind of album, one constructed of disparate containers gathered closely together, generating heat from proximity and similarity of content, rather than the stickier methods in which rock music gets crafted. The rattle inside OK Computer is not of bum-out sadness as folks often claim, but from the clink and slosh of things being pushed together on the shelf. It is in Thom Yorke's soaring falsetto and in Johnny Greenwood's atmospheric guitar that the findings about the human I've always felt OK Computer was a new kind of album, one constructed of disparate containers gathered closely together, generating heat from proximity and similarity of content, rather than the stickier methods in which rock music gets crafted. The rattle inside OK Computer is not of bum-out sadness as folks often claim, but from the clink and slosh of things being pushed together on the shelf. It is in Thom Yorke's soaring falsetto and in Johnny Greenwood's atmospheric guitar that the findings about the human condition are lovingly and even devastatingly reported in their rather singular manner. Dai Griffiths takes a similar atomized approach in his book on the album. He gathers the empirical data of run times, keys, instrumentation, factors in the media through which the album is delivered, even the nature of "album" into consideration to create a genome of this record. At times you feel it is being scanned like an alien abduction victim - I'm not completely sure how much Griffiths likes the record as much as he is devoted to unlocking its mysteries. I don not with to convey Griffiths as humorless or missing the point of what is still fundamentally a rock record, in fact his conversational tone softens the lists of info and ties the meditations together into a cohesive whole. I would not want to read similar analysis of something as bloody and sweaty as a Rolling Stones album, but with OK Computer, his approach is comforting, coaxing the brittle, paranoid and fragile traits of this record out into the open.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    These 33 1/3 books sure are hit and miss. They can be so pretentious at times that it hurts. Nevertheless, they can usually provide some insight that makes the original album worth revisiting or reconsidering personal convictions in new light. Griffths' effort fails miserably on both counts and adds pretty much nothing new to the listening experience. There's way too much description and the book is far too light on meaningful analysis or interpretation. Griffths suggests an interesti These 33 1/3 books sure are hit and miss. They can be so pretentious at times that it hurts. Nevertheless, they can usually provide some insight that makes the original album worth revisiting or reconsidering personal convictions in new light. Griffths' effort fails miserably on both counts and adds pretty much nothing new to the listening experience. There's way too much description and the book is far too light on meaningful analysis or interpretation. Griffths suggests an interesting argument - that the CD as an album format in itself has been underrecognised in music criticism. But then he draws this out to a whole chapter, only to conclude that... OK Computer is a great CD album because the different songs fit together and "fill the space" WTF??? The final chapter is an attempt to assess OK Computer's legacy and status in posterity as a "classic" album, but Griffths manages to waffle on for 20 pages and yet ends up making absolutely no cogent argument whatsoever either way. He basically sits on the fence and concludes... "we have to wait and see if stands the test of time". Well no shit, Sherlock. What an idiot. My final gripe (that I'm going to elaborate here, anyway) is that the author seems to enjoy using ridiculous high-brow and archly "eclectic" references just for the sake of it. The links between Judy Collins and Matthew Arnold with Radiohead are surely rather tenuous at best.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    Everyone knows the cultural impact of OK Computer on the music world, not to mention the amount of Magazine articles dissecting the album and although there are a couple of unofficial bios out there, it seems that no one has attempted to write a book about the group's magnum opus. Saying that a lot has been said about OK Computer in magazines, from the instruments used to, track inspirations. There really isn't anything new to offer. Griffiths does manage - instead of an exhausting an Everyone knows the cultural impact of OK Computer on the music world, not to mention the amount of Magazine articles dissecting the album and although there are a couple of unofficial bios out there, it seems that no one has attempted to write a book about the group's magnum opus. Saying that a lot has been said about OK Computer in magazines, from the instruments used to, track inspirations. There really isn't anything new to offer. Griffiths does manage - instead of an exhausting analysis he rather talks about OK Computer's impact on late 90's culture and how it influenced music models. He states that the album is one of the last proper albums in a classic sense of the 90's whether you agree or not there is a small ounce of truth in that statement. The whole book is peppered with these observations. On the whole Griffiths volume makes good reading but beware - the writing style is a bit stuffy. I don't mind it but I can see it as off putting for some people.

  20. 4 out of 5

    John

    Most music books I read send me straight to the music as I re-immerse myself in the work under discussion. This was the first time a book has made me want to avoid the music, to wait until I could flush its memory from my mind before re-engaging with the songs. Griffiths spends the bulk of the book talking about the lengths of the songs, the chord structures, the time during which there is singing vs. the time when there is not, the make up and conception of "albums," etc., etc. If I was unfamil Most music books I read send me straight to the music as I re-immerse myself in the work under discussion. This was the first time a book has made me want to avoid the music, to wait until I could flush its memory from my mind before re-engaging with the songs. Griffiths spends the bulk of the book talking about the lengths of the songs, the chord structures, the time during which there is singing vs. the time when there is not, the make up and conception of "albums," etc., etc. If I was unfamiliar with OK Computer, I would be hard pressed to tell you anything about it other than the 1s and 0s of its construction after reading this. He certainly doesn't get at what makes it good, what it sounds like, or why it connected with so many listeners. Indeed, Griffiths spent an entire book sucking the life and soul out of a wonderful album. Avoid this if you like music.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    I'm giving this a bump up from 2 stars largely because I enjoy reading pretty much any analysis of Radiohead's music. The most intriguing part of the book, for me, is the author's proposition that "Fitter Happier" should be viewed not as a throwaway, obnoxiously avant garde track, but rather as the centerpiece of the album. He suggests that the seventh track on "OK Computer" is the glue that holds the rest of the albums music and imagery together. However, the author's analysis is a l I'm giving this a bump up from 2 stars largely because I enjoy reading pretty much any analysis of Radiohead's music. The most intriguing part of the book, for me, is the author's proposition that "Fitter Happier" should be viewed not as a throwaway, obnoxiously avant garde track, but rather as the centerpiece of the album. He suggests that the seventh track on "OK Computer" is the glue that holds the rest of the albums music and imagery together. However, the author's analysis is a little too math-y at times, and I don't think I can forgive Mr. Griffiths for saying that "Let Down", one of my favorite songs by anyone EVER, is "living up to its name". Blasphemy. Favorite quote: "You want to know what 1997 felt like? 'OK Computer': tracks six-eight. Pushed for time? - track seven."

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ted Moisan

    This is a really cool series of books! I plan on reading a few more, and I hope they all live up to the high standard of this one. Griffiths isn't going to waste our time by biographing Radiohead, as countless sources already have. Instead, he looks at the band, and this album in particular, in structural terms and as a defining moment in the development of music as a recorded medium. In other words, how music has been changed by being written onto records of varying speeds, cassettes, and up to This is a really cool series of books! I plan on reading a few more, and I hope they all live up to the high standard of this one. Griffiths isn't going to waste our time by biographing Radiohead, as countless sources already have. Instead, he looks at the band, and this album in particular, in structural terms and as a defining moment in the development of music as a recorded medium. In other words, how music has been changed by being written onto records of varying speeds, cassettes, and up to today's CDs and whatnot. And how music was and is presented differently on these different media. And, you know, how Radiohead is really cool and their music is great and stuff.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dean Wilcox

    I'm a big fan of this series - this is the 16th title I've read. At their best the 33 1/3rd books provide historical or social context, analysis, process, and reflection. Sadly, this book does very little of any of those things. With the exception of the first chapter - a rather interesting gloss on the history of recording technology all to argue that OK Computer is a "CD album" - this title mainly describes the track listing, songs, words, and packaging - nothing I couldn't discover simply by I'm a big fan of this series - this is the 16th title I've read. At their best the 33 1/3rd books provide historical or social context, analysis, process, and reflection. Sadly, this book does very little of any of those things. With the exception of the first chapter - a rather interesting gloss on the history of recording technology all to argue that OK Computer is a "CD album" - this title mainly describes the track listing, songs, words, and packaging - nothing I couldn't discover simply by listening and looking myself.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Joe Mahoney

    Dai Griffiths discusses "OK Computer" in the context of it being a "CD Album" - a single, uninterrupted sequence of songs as opposed to a vinyl or cassette album that had two definite sides. That's a completely different take on the album to mine and I can't say that I agree with it (me having listened to it on tape for the longest time). That said, Griffiths has done a lot of good research in to the structure and content of all the songs and ere are a lot of fascinating takeaways in this little Dai Griffiths discusses "OK Computer" in the context of it being a "CD Album" - a single, uninterrupted sequence of songs as opposed to a vinyl or cassette album that had two definite sides. That's a completely different take on the album to mine and I can't say that I agree with it (me having listened to it on tape for the longest time). That said, Griffiths has done a lot of good research in to the structure and content of all the songs and ere are a lot of fascinating takeaways in this little book. Recommended.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    Tedious and the worst of the 33 1/3 series so far. Griffiths avoids interviews with anyone involved in making the album (which he views as lazy and cheap) and instead does some bizarre quasi-mathematical analysis of the ratio of words to beats, or something like that. The author and his colleagues at university probably think this is how music should be written about and appreciated; I think it made for a dreadful read that gave me absolutely no insight into this album or why it was regarded as Tedious and the worst of the 33 1/3 series so far. Griffiths avoids interviews with anyone involved in making the album (which he views as lazy and cheap) and instead does some bizarre quasi-mathematical analysis of the ratio of words to beats, or something like that. The author and his colleagues at university probably think this is how music should be written about and appreciated; I think it made for a dreadful read that gave me absolutely no insight into this album or why it was regarded as an instant classic.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Audra

    really was looking forward to an in depth analysis of this album, which for me is a touchstone album of a Very Important Time of my life, in addition to being a masterfully crafted album. instead was treated to a random meandering of some of the most tedious facts that don't even hold together in any kind of cohesive thesis. why did i waste so much time reading this lazy excuse for a book? who picked this idiot for this album? I've so enjoyed the other books in this series.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Burton-Rose

    Griffiths set out to write a book of music criticism that makes the reader listen again, rather than just indulge in nostalgia for the moment in which the album under discussion entered his consciousness; in my case, at least, he succeeded. There's also a welcome attention to the influence of commodity form on composition: Griffiths argues that this 1997 Radiohead album was the first successful cd, shaking off the two-sided structural shadow of the record.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    i really enjoyed this. i can see how most people would not. it is a very technical reading of ok computer - song by song breakdown that borders theoretical nonesense. i mean, just shut up and love the album right? but this little book really put the album in perspective. he argues that it was the first time that the "CD format" was truly realized and he does it compellingly. again, if you're a music geek and like reading about how albums are done, this could be good, or you'll hate it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rose Owens

    Griffiths provides a quite interesting reading of "Ok Computer" and also predicts the future of Radiohead with surprising accuracy (pretty much said that the group would use a revolutionary tactic to release a future album...as with "In Rainbows"). Also good to read a background behind the songs that gets deep inside the words and beats.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Joel

    Not sure why people seem to dislike this one so much. So far I think the writing is a great blend of academic and accessible. ...Finished. OK, I guess I get why other reviews say this isn't about Radiohead enough. But it's a good analysis of the album and what the CD format meant for music in the 90s.

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