OK Computer initiated a shift away from the popular Britpop genre of the time to the more melancholic, atmospheric style of alternative rock that would be prevalent in the next decade. It would also initiate the band's shift away from their original guitar-driven sound and into the more experimental territory that defined their subsequent work.
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.
Prominent rock critics predicted the album would have far-reaching cultural impact, and boy were they right—in subsequent years, the album has been frequently cited by listeners, critics, and musicians as one of the greatest of its time. OK Computer was listed at number 162 in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time; in 2006, Time Magazine placed it in their list of 100 timeless and essential albums; and it is currently listed as the 8th-most-acclaimed album of all time on Acclaimed Music's compilation of critics' lists. In 2014 it was inducted into the National Recording Registry for its "cultural, historical, or aesthetic significance."
- "Airbag" (4:44)
- "Paranoid Android" (6:23)
- "Subterranean Homesick Alien" (4:27)
- "Exit Music (For a Film)" (4:24)
- "Let Down" (4:59)
- "Karma Police" (4:21)
- "Fitter Happier" (1:57)
- "Electioneering" (3:50)
- "Climbing Up the Walls" (4:45)
- "No Surprises" (3:48)
- "Lucky" (4:19)
- "The Tourist" (5:24)
"Please can you stop the tropes? I'm trying to get some rest:"
- 1-Dimensional Thinking: The unseen driver in the "Karma Police" video, and then the car itself.
- Adult Fear:
baby smiling in back seat...Shot of baby strapped in back seat.
- A couple lines in "Fitter Happier":
- The phrase "Lost child" is visible on the album cover above the blue-orange figure.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: From "Paranoid Android":The crackle of pigskinThe dust and the screamingThe 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 driver's celebration after surviving the crash.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Recurs in "Fitter Happier", making the already creepy song even creepier.Nothing so childish, at a better paceSlower and more calculatedNo chance of escape
- Careful with That Axe: Thom's unsettling distorted shriek at the end of "Climbing Up the Walls".
- Cloudcuckoolander: Insanity and paranoia is a major theme on this album.
- Concept Album: To many the album qualifies, because it addresses fear of technology and the future in the eve of the 20th century, although the band denies it.
- Creepy Monotone / Machine Monotone: "Fitter Happier".
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: "Subterranean Homesick Alien":I'd show them the stars and the meaning of lifeThey'd shut me away, but I'd be alright
- Epic Rocking: "Paranoid Android" is over 6 minutes long.
- Fading into the Next Song:
- The beeps at the end of "Airbag" set the tempo for "Paranoid Android".
- The sirens at the end of "Karma Police" trail off into "Fitter Happier"...
- ...Which then fades into "Electioneering".
- 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.
- Foreshadowing: The chorus of "Paranoid Android" contains a quiet Machine Monotone muttering the line "I may be paranoid, but not an android", which leads to the track "Fitter Happier", which has a Machine Monotone front and center.
- The Future Will Be Better: The song "No Surprises" semi-ironically evokes this trope. The protagonist wants to have no surprises anymore in his life, which seems to indicate he might be Driven to Suicide.
- 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.
- Thom expressed confusion as to why the censors were so quick to act on the inclusion of uncensored breasts in the video yet were ambivalent to the scene in which a man accidentally chops off his limbs.
- Good Hair, Evil Hair: "Karma Police":Her Hitler hairdo is making me feel ill.
- Great Escape: "Exit Music"'s lyrics describe one inspired by Romeo and Juliet and what would've happened if after they consummated their marriage, they tried to escape the morning after.
- In the Style of...:
- "Happiness is a Warm Gun" by The Beatles from The White Album, Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" from A Night at the Opera and Miles Davis' Bitches Brew 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" from The White Album.
- The band admitted the drums on "Airbag" were recorded as an attempt to imitate the drum programming of DJ Shadow's Endtroducing......
- Last Note Nightmare:
- "Karma Police". As the rather mellow melody of the song fades out at the end, some very dissonant feedback fades in... Which is in turn followed by a nice closing piano chord. Then again, it is Radiohead; this sort of thing is to be expected.
- And then it fades right into "Fitter Happier", a Stephen Hawking-esque Machine Monotone over dissonant piano and a series of bizarre sound effects.
- And of course "Paranoid Android" features two transitions from slow and sad to heavy and chaotic. One of those is situated near the middle, the other at the very end.
- "Climbing Up the Walls" is scary enough already, considering it deals with insanity and paranoia. The song then goes into a hyperactive guitar-led ending that has everything crashing at a peak complemented with Thom letting out a horrific distorted shriek. Then most of the instruments fade out, leaving 16 violins playing notes separated by quarters. It can leave you thinking "Wait, how long were they there?!"
- List Song: "Fitter Happier", which has a robotic monotone voice listing off phrases and imagery tied together subliminally by the theme of the cold and commonplace ethos of society.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Most of the album is a 2-3. However, "Exit Music (For a Film)" and "No Surprises" drop to a 1, while "Electioneering" reaches a 6. "Climbing Up the Walls" is a 4, as the song's creepy atmosphere and the aforementioned Last Note Nightmare prevents it from being any lower.
- "Paranoid Android" covers all the ground from 1 or 2 at its softest to 7 or 8 at its heaviest parts. Overall, it probably comes out to about a 4 or 5.
- Mood Whiplash: Used frequently. The aforementioned shifts in "Paranoid Android" and the transition from "Karma Police" to "Fitter Happier" may be the strongest examples.
- 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.
- No Animals Were Harmed: "Fitter Happier":Careful to all animals (never washing spiders down the plughole)
A pig, in a cage, on antibiotics
- Which is subverted at the end with:
- Off with His Head!: Literally sung in "Paranoid Android":When I'm king, you will be first against the wall(...) Off with his head, man
- The Oner: The music video of "No Surprises" shows Thom Yorke shot in one long continuous take. The continuous 57 seconds in which Thom Yorke is submerged was done by speeding up the track Thom is miming to as his face becomes totally submerged, then editing the footage to slow it down for the full minute. The making of this video is featured in the band's documentary Meeting People is Easy, which shows Thom's frustrations with being unable to do the shot correctly for several takes.
- One-Word Title: "Airbag" and "Lucky".
- Over Crank: Thom Yorke in the music video of "No Surprises", wearing a dome over his head like an astronaut, which is being filled with water. When it is completely full, Thom goes completely limp and motionless. For almost a full minute. Then the dome drains out and Thom appears to be quite distressed (sucking in great lungfuls of air), and also quite relieved, laughing as he lip-syncs the last of the lyrics. He was never in any actual danger — they Over Cranked the film in order to make it appear he was motionless. He actually only had to hold his breath for a few seconds. The kicker? The video took several takes to film — and each time Thom grew more and more stressed out and agitated at how long it was taking. Horribly, eye-wateringly claustrophobic.
- Precision F-Strike: The sole swear on the album comes from "Fitter Happier", of all tracks.Like a cat
Tied to a stick
That's driven into
Frozen winter shit
- Product Placement: "Paranoid Android":Kicking and squealing Gucci little piggy
- Rant-Inducing Slight: "Paranoid Android" was inspired by a woman Thom Yorke saw in a bar who became violent when someone spilled a drink on her.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: One possible interpretation of "Exit Music"—taking its roots in Romeo and Juliet into consideration—depicts it as one from Romeo and Juliet to Friar Laurence, who is an integral part of the pair's demise.We hope your
- 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.
- Sanity Slippage Song: "Climbing Up the Walls", and possibly "Fitter Happier".Either way you turnI'll be thereOpen up your skullI'll be thereClimbing up the walls
- Self-Backing Vocalist: The two vocal overdubs played simultaneously in the last verse of "Let Down".
- Siamese Twin Songs: "Airbag" segues into "Paranoid Android."
- "Fitter Happier" is basically an extended spoken-word outro to "Karma Police".
- Spoken Word in Music: "Fitter Happier", which features a computer voice saying all the lines.
- 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. 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 piss-take at their record label with the line "lyrics reproduced by kind permission even though we wrote them."
- Tall Poppy Syndrome: "Paranoid Android":Ambition makes you look pretty ugly
- Together in Death: A line near the end of "Exit Music (For a Film)" that is arguably the most explicit representation of Romeo and Juliet's influence on the song.Now, we are one, in everlasting peace.
- Uncommon Time:
- "Paranoid Android" has some bars in 7/4.
- "The Tourist" alternates between 9/8 and 10/8.
- "Let Down" has a guitar part in 5/4 with the rest of the instrumentals in 4/4.
- When I go forwards you go backwards and somewhere we will meet
- What Could Have Been: In-Universe; "Exit Music" was built around an idea that Thom got when he watched the 1968 Franco Zeffirelli adaptation of Romeo and Juliet at the age of 13: What would've happened if Romeo and Juliet escaped the morning after they consummated their marriage?
- Winged Humanoid: "Let Down:"One day I'm going to grow wingsA chemical reaction
- World War III: "Airbag:"In the next world warIn a jack knifed juggernautI am born again
- You Bastard!: Just after the Precision F-Strike on "Fitter Happier":The ability to laugh at weakness
- 0's and 1's: A working title for the album.
- "Hey man, slow down, slow down"