Is Radiohead’s OK Computer the best album from the 90’s? It has some competition from Nirvana’s Nevermind of course, but also from Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, which were both also released in the same decade. Not to mention My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. I realize that many people consider this album to be overhyped – but I don’t care. Don’t get me wrong. All of these are great albums. Maybe even some of the best through the history of popular music.
But OK Computer is different. It effectively captures a sense of history, and anxiety of the future, of that point in time, and it’s proven to be more prescient than the others. Nevermind can be argued that it started a movement, but it’s not the same as a description of the change in society and how it views itself in the world. The separation of the self from society itself, and the impersonal interactions with others, mainly enabled through technology. From the description of ambition and greed in “Paranoid Android” that we can see daily in dozens of reality TV shows where the stars are worshiped to the disappointment and disillusion of society in “Let Down”.
The impersonal brings about societal norms falling and the resultant social ills that we see today.
Even the structures are the prescient, from the linear progression of “Paranoid Android” instead of the standard chorus-verse, to the electronic production, much of modern popular music sounds like the album – the merging of electronic and rock music.