Hey. Radiohead notified me today via Spotify that I should check out the newly minted OK COMPUTER Remaster. Naturally I hastily tapped OK and as I stumbled onto the sidewalk for a quick mornings erranding the opening riff from AIRBAG came to pass and I was swinging my arms down the street to the simple refrain ‘In an interstellar buuuuuuurrrrst I am back to save the uuuuuuniverrrrrrrrssse.’ There I was, walking along a sun dappled path dancing with myself. Other people must have seen me a kind of hip-hop enthusiast, but I swear i’m not that guy: I’m simply getting older, and while I take opportunities to not be set in my ways about culture, the stuff from back then is still all over me, grafted and hardening with each step further from childhood. Surely OK COMPUTER is one of the great rock records of the 1990s, and i’ll double down and say it carved a few deep striations into my pretty little brain.
Thom Yorke always sang for me. He embodied with ferocity many emotions of my more malleable years: Anger, Fear, Paranoia, Alienation — yes, each come with capital letters for effect — and Disappointment, which was probably the strongest one of the bunch. The rest are easy to sense, easy to feel as a teenager. To hate ones family, fear adults and adulthood, and to willfully separate myself from everyone most of the time became habit, and then ritual, and then skill, and I delighted in constructing these containment cells. But disappointment was the most insidious and definitely complex emotion at work, and I first felt its vibration very early in my life, when I was refused a Hannukah gift by my mother as punishment for bad behavior. Upon the realization that if I sat down to draw her a card apologizing for my actions, I could engage in a transaction with my mother whereby I would trade the folded paper apology for the gift. When I saw her face stare into the card I scribbled out, tenderly and moved, march upstairs then return to hand me my gift, shiny and ready to be opened, I knew what I had done. I felt nothing during the transfer of power. Life’s moments of compassion and family whittled its importance down to mere transactional gratification, my first and hardest singe of disappointment. The foundation this laid grew into disconnection, or, rather, misconnection throughout my attempts to have childhood friends. The ugliness of disappointment is its overwhelming sense of existing unfulfilled by activities outside of the self. It is the precursor to the more visceral and victimy emotions of Anger, Fear, Alienation… So when Thom Yorke sings to me of his disappointment with the world around him, I sing along.
‘One day i am gonna grow wings / a chemical reaction / hysterical and useless’ rises and falls at Let Downs crescendo, the hallucinatory daydream of metamorphoses into something extraordinary is immediately torn by the knowing of its waste and active futility, an acquiescence paramount to the album, and rang horribly true for me back in 1997. I listened to nothing but this record for about six straight months. Yeah, nothing else at all. I dug deep into its every pop and rustle, its imperfections — the drum beat at the end of Karma Police!? — and its cerebral majesty. It was the first record I cried to, and I never really tightened the valve enough, so sometimes I still do. It’s a hard thing to admit something can still hold such a terrible power over you, but it’s been grafted to me long enough that whenever I listen, I am thrust into that space and time again violently, and instantly. It was throttling to hear it again this morning, my cheeks and jaws still tight from the pain of holding back the need to sing out loud, to dance and swing to its pulsating hymn. If music can still take possession of us like this, what else is there to live for?