When I first saw the video for "Paranoid Android," the album's first single, I almost immediately wrote these guys off as just another English band that had gotten too eccentric for their own good. All I had ever heard before was their breakthrough single, "Creep", and the first single off of their second record, "Fake Plastic Trees". I thought "Creep" was OK, but I didn't care much for "Fake Plastic Trees"; I just thought U2 had ruined another opening act by filling their heads with visions too grandiose for their abilities. But after a few listens, the "Paranoid Android" began to grow on me, and I had to hear more; now I am almost ready to pronounce "OK Computer" a masterpiece.
Besides "Paranoid Android", the standout cuts include "Let Down", "No Surprises", and "Subterranean Homesick Alien", a quiet bit of longing whose meaning is oddly summed up by its title. "Karma Police" is a strangely threatening piece that finds lead singer Thom Yorke whispering "This is what you get when you mess with us" over a lone piano that contrasts starkly with the orchestral rock in the rest of the song.
It is an ambitious record, far more challenging than most people would expect. The band's heavy Pink Floyd and U2 influences are ever-present; Yorke's voice can go from a whisper so quiet it's almost just breathing to a controlled scream that cuts through the music that shimmers around it. Similarly, the music can go from quiet acoustic pieces buoyed by melancholy strings to hammering guitar chords, all in the space of a single song.
It's not a record for everyone, though; quiet, almost dispassionate, but warm and hopeful at the same time, almost like a narrator who knows all too well the emptiness of the modern world but still has hope that he can find some meaning among the malfunctioning circuit boards and blinking monitors.