Did you know Thom Yorke is a nerd just like you? Settle in for this latest installment of SciFi sounds, featuring Radiohead’s OK Computer.
Released in 1997, OK Computer is frequently cited as one of the best albums ever recorded. Where previous records explored in SciFi Sounds have been straight up concept albums, OK Computer is interesting because it is a rock album riddled with scifi references and language but avoids turning into an opera. That’s not a knock on rock operas in the least, it’s just nice to listen to an album that may tell a story in themes or form, but doesn’t have a storyline per se.
Yorke’s keen soars over music that seamlessly blends the singable/tune-y aspects of rock with the limitless sound possibilities available in the modern recording studio. Never is this perfect marriage of old and new as pronounced as in “Subterranean Homesick Alien” a song that pays tribute to Bob Dylan’s oeuvre even as it explores an new electronic sounds. Throughout the album, lyrics are ambiguous but memorable, and often scifi tinged, for instance, “Airbag,” with its line “In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the universe...”
However, for me at least, the greatest “Thom Yorke, you nerd!” moments on the album are in “Paranoid Android” the second track, which pays homage to Douglas Adams. The album is atmospheric, occasionally gloomy, and exactly what you want to listen to right now.
No alarms and no surprises,
Truth be told, I sometimes have to convince myself to listen to music that wasn’t made by David Bowie. So deep is my
creepy obsession love for the musical genius/goblin king, that I have to pry myself from my comfort zone to listen to new music. Frankly, Bowie is my desert island music. If I had to listen to just one album for the rest of my life, it would be Hunky Dory. But that is beside the point.
Because this is SciFi Sounds, which means that I want to talk about Bowie’s alien persona, Ziggy Stardust. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is a remarkable concept album. Ziggy is an alien rock star, sent to educate humanity about peace and love as we face the end of the world, but ultimately he falls victim to our society’s decadence, and is destroyed by it.
Ziggy Stardust is an incredibly creative album. Its most famous track is probably “Suffragette City,” but there are so many gems that may be less familiar, like “Five Years,” “Moonage Daydream,” and “Rock’n’Roll Suicide.” It also features a great SciFi story, with a fully developed character arc and pretty marvelous world-building. Let Bowie abduct your eardrums this afternoon.
And come back next Tuesday for another installment of SciFi Sounds!
Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am.
As a new feature, each week will give you a dose of “SciFi Sounds”- great music with a Science Fiction tinge. This week’s selection was released in 2000, but Deltron 3030 still sounds like it comes from the future. This epic concept rap album is set in the year 3030, in a future where huge corporations control the universe. Deltron 3030 is the product of the collaboration between Del the Funky Homosapien, Dan the Automator, and DJ Kid Koala.
Del Zero, our hero, sets out to fight the establishment. He lives in a secret lair in the Bay Area, while the world around him falls to pieces. A wealthy oligarchy has seized control of all of the Earth’s resources, and consigned the underclasses to rot away. The environment’s in ruins, and there’s fighting in the streets. Del is a witty protagonist, fighting the power and inviting listeners to “Upgrade your grey matter/cause one day it may matter.”
The album is visionary, exciting, and full of danceable grooves. In short, it’s the perfect way to spend your Tuesday afternoon. And don’t worry, when you finish up, there’s a follow-up album, Deltron Event II, coming out this September. And we thought GRRM took a long time to complete a sequel, amiright?
Enjoy! And look for another installment os SciFi Sounds next Tuesday.