"In an interstellar burst, I'm back to save the universe."OK Computer
—Airbag, opening song of the album
is the third album released by Alternative Rock
in 1997. Upon release the album reached the top position in the UK charts and became their highest album entry on the American charts, debuting at number 21 on the Billboard 200. OK Computer
received considerable acclaim upon release. Prominent British and American rock critics predicted the album would have far-reaching cultural impact. In subsequent years, the album has been frequently cited by listeners, critics and musicians as one of the greatest of its time. OK Computer
initiated a shift away from the popular Britpop
genre of the time to the more melancholic and atmospheric style of alternative rock that would be prevalent in the next decade.
Critics and fans often comment on the underlying themes found in the lyrics and artwork, emphasising Radiohead's views on rampant consumerism, social alienation, emotional isolation, and political malaise; in this capacity, OK Computer
is often interpreted as having prescient insight into the mood of 21st century life.
"Karma police, arrest these tropes":
- Adult Fear: A couple lines in "Fitter Happier".
baby smiling in back seat
Shot of baby strapped in back seat
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: From "Paranoid Android:"
The crackle of pigskin
The dust and the screaming
The yuppies networking
- Bittersweet Ending: Ends with the one-two Tear Jerker punch of "Lucky" and "The Tourist," which provide a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel and resolve the tension and fear that pervade the rest of the album.
- Bookends: OK Computer begins and ends with a car crash: "The Tourist," which closes the album, describes the events leading up to it from the perspective of a bystander, and "Airbag," which opens it, describes the man driving the car's celebration after surviving the crash.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Recurs in "Fitter Happier", making the already creepy song even creepier.
- Careful With That Axe: Thom's unsettling distorted shriek the end of "Climbing Up The Walls".
- Choke Holds: "Exit Music For A Film": "We hope that you choke."
- Cloudcuckoolander: Insanity and paranoia is a major theme on this album.
- Concept Album: To many the album qualifies, although the band denies it.
- Creepy Monotone / Machine Monotone: "Fitter Happier".
- Driven to Suicide: "No Surprises" (maybe).
- Epic Rocking: "Paranoid Android" is over 6 minutes long.
- Fading into the Next Song:
- The sirens at the end of "Karma Police" trail off into "Fitter Happier"...
- ...which then fades into "Electioneering".
- The beeps at the end of "Airbag" set the tempo for "Paranoid Android".
- The end of "Exit Music (For a Film)" fades into "Let Down".
- Fake Loud: "Climbing up the Walls" consists of two of Thom's vocal tracks layered over each other. The one that's mixed lower is clipped and distorted in this manner, but it's actually much quieter than the Thom's other vocal track, which is more clean and melodic.
- The Future Will Be Better: The song "No Surprises" semi-ironically evokes this trope.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: The video for "Paranoid Android" has frontal nudity in it (and gay leathermen), although it is animated. Nevertheless, the unedited version was only played on MTV post-watershed.
- Good Hair, Evil Hair: "Karma Police": "Her Hitler hairdo is making me feel ill."
- In The Style Of: "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" by The Beatles and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" were cited as influences for the multi-part structure of "Paranoid Android".
- Further Beatles influences appear in "Karma Police", whose main piano melody is reminiscent of "Sexy Sadie".
- The band admitted the drums on "Airbag" were recorded as an attempt to imitate the drum programming of DJ Shadow's Endtroducing.....
- New Sound Album: The album took the spacey but driving style of alt-rock the band had introduced on The Bends, and proceeded to take it Up to Eleven with additional Progressive Rock elements, more intricate production and more elements drawn from other genres.
- Off with His Head!: Literally sung in "Paranoid Android".
- One-Dimensional Thinking: The unseen driver in the "Karma Police" video, and then the car itself.
- Record Producer: Nigel Godrich. This the first album where the band worked with him (after he had engineered The Bends), since then he has produced all their albums.
- Siamese Twin Songs: "Airbag" segues into "Paranoid Android".
- "The Tourist" and "Airbag" from OK Computer. They tell a coherent story together, but are placed in reverse order, Bookends with "The Tourist" at the end of the album and "Airbag" at the beginning.
- "Fitter Happier" is basically an extended spoken-word outro to "Karma Police."
- Self-Backing Vocalist: The two vocal overdubs played simultaneously in the last verse of "Let Down".
- Shout-Out: The title of "Subterranean Homesick Alien" to Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues".
- Marvin the Paranoid Android.
- The beeps at the end of "Airbag" are sampled from BBC radio, where they're used to mark the last seconds before a new hour starts.
- Studio Chatter: "Climbing Up the Walls" contains clips of what is apparently studio chatter pitch-shifted and buried among the insect noises and violins. The song must be slowed down before it can even be noticed at all, and even then it's hard to make out what is being said (it seems to be "we're playing... ready?" though it also sounds rather like "amazing... amazing").
- Take That: The line "Kicking screaming Gucci little piggy" in "Paranoid Android" has been interpreted by some people as a shot at the Spice Girls.note The actual story behind the line is that Thom had a very unpleasant encounter he had in a Los Angeles bar, where a woman reacted violently after somebody spilled a drink on her.
- There are more straightforward shots fired at the capitalist corporate lifestyle of the West in "Paranoid Android", "Fitter Happier", "No Surprises" and "Let Down" ("disappointed people clinging onto bottles" references another event where Thom was in a bar and suddenly wondered what would happen if the floor would collapse).
- The credits include a pisstake at their record label with the line "lyrics reproduced by kind permission even though we wrote them".
- Zeroes and Ones: A working title for the album.