Monday, November 30, 2009

17 June 1997

Tomorrow, on December 1st 2009, one of the most underrated albums of the 20th century is going to be released and treated to the deluxe revisions for the 21st century. The album has one of the most unfortunate birthdays ever, June 17th, 1997 (June 16t in Europe). Because on that date, a so-called more important album was released. An album that brought a cult band to the brink of super-stardom, and a cult band would be kept at the status of a cult band. Looking back twelve years now, I would take on any music critic from any era, and many more to come to point out their short comings about the worship of what many consider to be the greatest album of the 1990's if not the 1900's and how they are wrong and picked the right release day, but the wrong album.

1997, such an interesting year. We were riding a crest of richness, and America looked indestructible. Computers were rearing their ugly heads and it looked like the future had arrived! A brisk time of excitement and moving forwardness. Clinton was smokin' cigars and grunge was dead. No reason to be sad, or paranoid. Everything was Ok! Oh yeah, and we had a new album that just came out the was the opposite of everything positive, but instead was terrified of the future and saw our current global politics and culture as plastic and fake. This album from a cult British band, would turn to music industry on it's head. Critics would go on and call this album a watershed moment for alternative music. Ok Computer was born.

Wow! I'm Ok Computer! Look how bright and shiny, yet sterile I am!

This was a wet dream for music critics that were stuck in the doldrums of the emergence of rap-rock and the early hints of the pop revolution that was just budding in the minds of the powers that be. This was their 5 star album. This was the future, listen to how glossy it is, listen to how eerie it predicts of things to come. Just listen. This might, just be, Dark Side of the Moon Part II.

Ok Computer would go on to get a 10 out of 10 from NME and a 10 out of 10 from Pitchfork Media. Q would give it 5 out of 5 stars. Rolling Stone 4 out of 5 (later revisiting this score and giving it 5 out of 5). This album would be nominate for a Mercury Prize, and 2 Grammy nods in 1998 (including Album of the year). Thom Yorke had just indoctrinated a new generation of music-snob pseudo-intellectuals that could now wax on this album for hours. How beautiful it was. This legion would continue to grow until it overflowed with lust when the even darker Kid A came out in 2000.
Ok Computer would make innumerable best of lists, including album of the year by various publications. Over the years it would be on more best of lists, but this time, off all time. Ok Computer seemed to get more and more attention as the years went on, and as Radiohead slowly made more albums. This album was predicting the future, and now we were living it. 12 years later, it is still an album that no one wants to criticize and raise a finger or a hoot to. There is no reason to. This is a flawless album. Trust me. It is. I love this album, along with all of the music-snobs and Yorke heads as myself. There is some truth that needs to be stated though. There was a better album that came out that day that Ok Computer was released. There really was. Trust me. I listened to both of them recently, and hands down, Ok Computer was beat that year, and that decade, and that century... and it came out the same day. The funny thing is someone had it right that year. According to NME that year, Ok Computer was only the 2nd best album in 1997. . .

Come Together

NME called Ladies and Gentlemen we are Floating in Space by British cult band Spiritualized
the best of album of 1997... and the were right. God were they right. Where everyone seemed to over look this masterpiece, especially in America. Radiohead fit in somehow into the American landscape, while this overamped, soul driven, stringed, mash-up, got lost. This delicate piece of work that seeps with happiness and sadness, love and loss, yet was tossed aside for a macbook case. This album wanted to make you feel like you were on pills, and even had a recommended dosage that you should take, and packaged as a pack of drugs. This album succeeded in that. It mellows you out, it hypes you out, it mellows you out again, then it brings a tear to your eye. J. Spaceman wanted you on his trip, with his pain, with his love, with his failure, maybe even make you feel his future infection of double-pneumonia.

There is a stark comparison between Ok Computer and Ladies and Gentlemen... One was based in paranoia and fear, the other was about the passions of love or the hate of failures in life. One was about non-living computers taking over humanity and turning us into robots, the other was about being overly human and being destroyed by humanism. Listening to these albums side by side today, one sounds more powerful than it ever has, and the other album is a frozen crystal stuck in time. There is two reasons for this, and they go together. They are both arranged as a composer would arrange a classical masterpiece. The instrumentation is there. Thom Yorke's voice is just as sweet and compelling as J. Spaceman's. So what makes difference in this? Soul and Emotion.

J. Spaceman makes you feel. Ladies and Gentlemen is all about the experience and the inners. Ok Computer all of that has been sucked dry by the frozeness of no hope. Ladies and Gentlemen gives us hope and serenity through out the whole album. Ladies and Gentlemen makes you cry for life. Ok Computer makes you forget what life was. Now, I know that was the point of Ok Computer. It is supposed to be cold and distant, that is part of the fear. Honestly though, I don't feel that distant 12 years after the album came out. I want to feel inside, anything, good or bad. Ladies and Gentlemen offers this. Strings, loops, saxophones, choruses, it is all there.

Sun so bright that I'm nearly blind
Cool cos I'm wired and I'm out of my mind
Warms the dope running down my spine
But I don't care 'bout you and I've got nothing to do
Free as the warmth in the air that I breathe
Even freer than dmt
Feel the warmth of the sun in me
But I don't care 'bout you and I've got nothing to do
Love in the middle of the afternoon
Just me, my spike in my arm and my spoon
Feel the warmth of the sun in the room
But I don't care 'bout you
And I've got nothin'

--- "Think I'm In Love" J. Spaceman

You look so tired and unhappy
Bring down the government
They don't, they don't speak for us
I'll take a quiet life
A handshake, some carbon monoxide

--- "No Surprises" Thom Yorke.

Spiritualized is offering an escapism through drugs, Radiohead is offering escapism through death. No one could argue that heroin would lead to death, this is debatable under different circumstances. Carbon Monoxide is not debatable, Thom Yorke is choosing instant death over suburbanism. This theme would latch onto Radiohead for the next decade until In Rainbows.

Tomorrow, Ladies and Gentlemen comes out with a 3 disc set (plus a 12 disc 3" CD set!!) to commemorate their great achievement that is still cast aside. Radiohead earlier this year with a re-issue of Ok Computer and that gathered much fanfare (despite the ongoing war between Capitol Records and Radiohead over their past catalog). Ladies and Gentlemen will come out, and a few aging gen-xers will pick it up who are still longing for sounds of that magical album. No one else will really buy it, hipster will continue to argue Kid A versus Ok Computer (The Bends is actually the correct answer), yet this magical piece will be on shelves somewhere, just hoping to be rediscovered.

I will leave you with what I think is possible the greatest and most heart-wrenching song ever written. Enjoy:



  1. you're mad! arrest this man! he talks in maths! he buzzes like a fridge!

  2. Oh man, I knew this had to be a Justin Stewart post. Welcome friend!

  3. you have a point here. that spiritualized album is excellent and it was wrongfully ignored. you're basically comparing greatness to greatness. All i can say is that 97 was a great year for music strictly because of these two albums. However, no other band has influenced future musicians or music lovers the way radiohead has. I give them a slight edge.

  4. pardon me, no other MODERN band.

  5. @Joe You know what I say is the truth.
    Cop shoot cop! I believe!I believe that I have been reborn! Cop shoot cop! I haven't got the time no more!

  6. @amanda Of course it's me. Trying to tear down the all ready established truths. Thank you for the warm welcome friend!

  7. @Moni - I am not doubting the influence of Radiohead one bit. You are correct it is greatness vs. greatness. Spiritualized just always seems like Radiohead's little brother that everyone forgot about. It's amazing how much attention this album got in '97 in the "alternative" press, but now has seemed to be have forgotten about, yet we all still want to bow down to the grand silver square that we call Ok Computer (which is still one of my favorite albums). I just thought it was time to put Ok Computer against its closest competitor at the time, and see who stacks up. Listen to those two albums back to back, and tell me which one makes you cry...

  8. i broke down. to both. the track "let down" always destroys me. i'm gonna go stare at the walls now.

  9. OK, justin. i have to call bullshit on all of this. the real point is you are just tired of OK Computer and Spiritualized seems a bit shiner now. if i sat you down with both of these albums new today, i bet you'd revert. time erodes, my friend.