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There’s not much to say about Radiohead’s OK Computer that hasn’t been said since it was released 14 years ago. Here at Cover Me we seem to post Radiohead cover songs almost daily. Well, the sincerest form of flattery is covering a song by an influential artist or album, right? And love it or hate it, it’s difficult to dispute the impression that OK Computer left on music. So it’s no surprise that Stereogum rounded up 12 great artists a few years ago to do a song-for-song tribute to OK Computer. Since the tribute came 10 years after the original, they titled it OKX.
OK Computer, Radiohead’s third album, came out not only during a pivotal point in the music industry, but also in history. Al Gore’s Internet was catching on, cellular telephones were on their way to being a manageable size, and America seemed optimistic about its technological advances. Radiohead, however, was not so enthusiastic about where technology was heading. Though the quintet has said in countless interviews over the years that OK Computer is not a concept album, the theme of paranoia over machine takeover holds strong.
Revisiting OK Computer in our current times is a bit like reading George Orwell’s 1984. On one hand, in the age of identity theft and information leaks, some of Yorke’s visions for our dystopian future have become a scary reality. But, like Back to the Future II’s prediction of flying cars by 2015, some of Radiohead’s technological nervousness is humorous in retrospect. After their pay-what-you-want In Rainbows, it would seem the crew has embraced our digital age.
Regardless of certain marks of aging, OK Computer remains vital. To celebrate this continued relevance, Stereogum let their chosen artists do whatever they wished with OK Computer’s tracks. While the original album is a Pink Floyd-esque conceptual whole, the tribute album’s songs can easily be enjoyed individually. The whole is no more than the sum of its parts, but the parts are all strong.
In the eclectic tracks on the tribute, we get to experience just how influential Radiohead is on popular artists of today. Take, for example, Cold War Kids’ version of “Electioneering.” Nathan Willett’s haunting voice nods at their back-porch sound, but the musical minimalism and a hard drum beat has Radiohead written all over it. “Electioneering” is a song done in a whole different way, but is the definition of “tribute:” a gift or service showing respect, gratitude, or affection. The folkier songs – Marissa Nadler’s “No Surprises” and My Brightest Diamond’s “Lucky” – also prove particular highlights, stripping away the atmospherics to spotlight the song.
Mobius Band pays homage to OK Computer by sticking with the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. Their version of “Subterranean Homesick Alien” points out the timelessness of the album by staying faithful, but John Vanderslice’s “Karma Police” is a completely different animal. Vanderslice sings robotically, perhaps to highlight OK Computer’s timely message.
Check out some samples below, then download the whole thing at Stereogum.
OKX: A Tribute to OK Computer Tracklist:
01. Doveman, “Airbag”
02. Slaraffenland, “Paranoid Android”
03. Mobius Band, “Subterranean Homesick Alien”
04. Vampire Weekend, “Exit Music (For a Film)”
05. David Bazan’s Black Cloud, “Let Down”
06. John Vanderslice, “Karma Police”
07. Samson Dalonoga feat. The Found Sound Orchestra, “Fitter Happier”
08. Cold War Kids, “Electioneering”
09. The Twilight Sad, “Climbing Up the Walls”
10. Marissa Nadler feat. Black Hole Infinity, “No Surprises”
11. My Brightest Diamond, “Lucky”
12. Flash Hawk Parlor Ensemble, “The Tourist”