CD Review of OK Computer Special Collector’s Edition by Radiohead
Radiohead: OK Computer Special Collector’s Edition
Recommended if you like
Blur, Muse, Arcade Fire
OK Computer
Special Collector’s Edition

Reviewed by James B. Eldred


apitol/EMI has been on the receiving end of some pretty heavy flack for some of their Radiohead re-releases since the band left the label in 2004. The seven-album box set seemed like a rush release since it contained no new material, and the hits collections were met with a resounded "meh" by fans who never viewed the group as a singles band in the first place.

Now the label is going through and re-releasing Radiohead\'s first three albums as special editions, with bonus discs full of rarities and B-sides. And while this new batch of reissues by the label is likely just another shameless attempt to squeeze money out of a dedicated fanbase, it\'s one that Radiohead fans should greet with open arms, since many of these tracks have been nearly impossible to find for years.

Of all the reissues, the most notable is OK Computer. This was the album that elevated Radiohead out of the realm of "greatest Britpop band" discussions into "greatest band in the world" debates. Sure, The Bends was a great album, but this was a great album. People were calling it the next Dark Side of the Moon, while others (accurately) predicted that its dark tone and languid sound would kill Britpop. Its unsuspected success made the band international superstars and media darlings (which in turn nearly drove them insane, as documented in the most depressing tour film of all time, "Meeting People Is Easy"). It was an album so big that the band seemingly did everything in their power to deny it with their subsequent releases, moving away from guitar-driven rock to glitch-based electronica.

Does the record still hold up? Hell yes – perhaps now more than ever. OK Computer was a dark album, looking forward to the future with pessimism and dismay over what humanity was becoming. Now, some 12 years later, some would say that its vague portents of technology destroying humanity, totalitarian governments and other dark and disturbing forces manipulating and bending the will of the masses has in part come true. The world is definitely a darker place than it was in 1997, and OK Computer serves as a perfect soundtrack for it.

Although OK Computer was in part an attack on capitalism, Radiohead certainly showed their capitalist streak when it came to singles and EPs released in its wake. There was the EP Airbag/How Am I Driving (along with its Japanese counterpart No Surprises/Running from Demons) as well as various singles (some two-part) which featured additional remixes and B-sides that weren\'t available anywhere else. In the days before iTunes and file-sharing, finding all of them could drive a mopey college student mad (and broke). Now that\'s fixed with the bonus disc included in this special edition, which collects 12 B-sides and three live BBC performances. Having them all on one disc is a godsend for fans, especially since many of them hold up just as well as the album tracks.

Many of this album’s B-sides were more upbeat and rocking than the album cuts, "Polyethylene (Parts 1 & 2)" and "Pearly" are great rocking numbers that would\'ve stood out like sore, upbeat thumbs next to somber cuts like "Fitter Happier" and "No Surprises." Other songs, like "A Reminder" and "Lull," are similar in tone to OK Computer, but are more musically accessible. In fact, most of the B-sides to OK Computer were more accessible than the album itself, and you can actually listen to them without wanting to slit your wrists, something that can\'t be said for many Radiohead releases.

This is a shockingly well-done reissue – nearly nothing is left out (just a sole remix of "Pearly") and everything included is a winner. Anyone who already bought OK Computer should have no problems with this double dip, while those who have yet to listen to the album have even less of an excuse not to now.

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