The final of my albums of 2017 isn’t really an album and isn’t really from 2017. Although it kind of is.
Radiohead’s OKNOTOK is the Oxford five-piece’s merch cash in offering for those of us who see significance in it being twenty years (TWENTY YEARS!) since the release of OK Computer, one of the finest albums ever made.
So that would be quite significant, then.
It comes with the pre-requisite remastering that – to my flawed wars at least – are barely audible. But what really floats my boat about the release is the album’s worth of extra material from circa-1997 which had, by and large, been unheard for a couple of decades – and therefore forever by most people not in Radiohead.
Given the band changed direction following OK’s release (Amnesiac and Kid A are more experimental in texture, preparing the ground for much of what the band has done since) it’s good to hear what other songs the band had from this part of their existence. And so the title is perfect: the album is very much is (like) OK… (but) not OK….
It’s everything you could want from a Radiohead album: dour and glum – revelling in its own gloriously self-indulgent misery. For example, opening track ‘I Promise’ – a song-long sigh of resignation – is enough to send most people with decent levels of serotonin running for the hills.
The following song, though, ‘Man of War’ is full of drama and cinematic light-and-shade. It’s more of a James Bond theme tune than the band’s ill-fated Spectre offering could ever be – and not just in the big ballsy soundscape, but the lyrics too: “Drunken confessions/and hijacked affairs/will just make you more alone…dressed for the kill/you’re my man of war”.
Then again, there’s also a couplet about making a cake out of eyes – which is a bit more Game of Thrones than Casino Royale.
Over the course of the record, there’s also ‘Lift’ which, according to guitarist Ed O’Brien, the band left off the 1997 album because they felt it was too commercial (like there really was any danger of them becoming the next Aqua or Ace of Base) and ‘Pearly’ which is as gnarly and angular as ‘Electioneering’, just…slower.
There’s an instrumental in the form of ‘Meeting in the Aisles’ and the guitar feedback- and engaged tone-heavy thrashing of ‘Palo Alto’.
It’s a rather wonderful accompaniment to the twelve songs with which we’re so familiar from 1997. And, if the songs don’t make you miserable enough, just remember that the original record came out TWENTY YEARS AGO.
Happy New Year, you incredibly old gits!