There’s no way Pablo Honey or even The Bends could have prepared us for OK Computer. This isn’t a new thought, but it is worth mentioning that in just over four years Radiohead graduated from “Creep” to visionary status. It’s startling, too, realizing OK Computer was released a decade ago: June 16, 1997 in Europe and July 1, 1997 in the U.S. Very heavy summer listening, no?

To celebrate the anniversary we’ve asked some of our favorite musicians to participate in a song-by-song OK Computer covers compilation. Indicative of the album’s continued importance, each invitee jumped at the chance; the results are personal, intense, tellingly various.



(Click here to go straight to OKX: A Tribute To OK Computer.)

Some folks honored the original “sturdy” design. Others looked to add difference. A couple wanted to flat-out shatter. None sound like Coldplay. Because critics have written more than enough about OK Computer’s influence, we also asked each contributor to write a response to their take. But first, more from the critics?

Radiohead has spoken about attempting to overlap DJ Shadow and the Beatles on OK Computer (remember this was pre-Danger Mouse, wasn’t meant so literally), but what the quintet created — existential dread, paranoia, and technophobia set to a lush, icy soundscape — has an entirely unique sound and feel, something our generation could grab onto and own. Yorke intones, “ambition makes you look pretty ugly” before one of “Paranoid Android”’s guitar-roar ascensions, but not here, Thom, not here? OK houses a post-everything guitar rock made fleshy and skeletal with spiraling pop arrangements, arty progressions, and complexly ingenious/uncompromising recording techniques. As those of us haunted by its melodies know, OK Computer’s often as important for its sound as for what the band wanted to say. In fact, it’s safe to say quite a few fans know said melodies more than the words (anyone care to belt out an acapella “Electioneering” or “Climbing the Walls”?) Regarding “The Tourist,” Decemberists guitarist Chris Funk comments, “I’m sure the words are amazing and mean something, but ? it’s always the melody for me first and I find this one just like an attic space full of opium and air-conditioning.” (This coming from someone who tours with Colin Meloy?)

While Yorke’s shimmering falsetto could likely exhale a shopping list and conjure tears (to be honest we haven’t tried this yet), OK Computer’s themes are equally ambitious: There’s that existential dream world, a need to escape empty feelings, and a wish/dread to find transcendence beyond “a heart that’s full up like a landfill, a job that slowly kills you, bruises that won’t heal.” As Twilight Sad drummer Mark Devine notes, “the fear of modern society [is] evident in every corner of OK Computer.” All that said (and placed on infinite repeat), we embrace the irony of releasing OKX as a series of MP3′s sent to us by their makers via email and enjoyed by you on a computer. Kissing might still include saliva, but putting together and playing a record no longer requires human contact. In our over-documented, blogged, reality televised, YouTube/MySpace realm — “a town where you can’t smell a thing” — OK Computer’s sense of vacuum-packed alienation remains presciently relevant. “Yuppies” are busy networking in “Paranoid Android”; now it’s everyone (yeah, even you kid). Now more than ever we need to heed “The Tourist”’s request to slow down and look at the scenery (unless, of course, your scenery’s an iPhone “touch” screen).

Analysis aside ? the record’s also just flat-out beautiful. Songs can’t always keep you warm, but goddamn if OK Computer doesn’t usually do the trick. OKX’s contributors know this: My Brightest Diamond “votes Radiohead [her] favorite band of all time”; John Vanderslice votes “Karma Police”’s bridge “the best bridge ever.” Or, David Bazan recalls being “instantly moved” by “Let Down”’s “first depressed/hopeful (now classic) guitar line,” adding “by the end of the second verse I was choking back tears, undone.” And Cold War Kids’ Nathan Willett sums it up perfectly: “OK Computer is the single most important album to be released during my youth … it was a rite of passage ? I have never had an emotional connection with an album quite like I have with this one.” Hopefully some of that (or that or that) magic has made its way onto OKX. Slow down, dig in.

Comments (239)
  1. Gary  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    Hmmmm…. never been much of a fan of “OK Computer” myself. It always just seemed like a necessary stop-gap that allowed them to reach the majestic heights of “Kid A” and “Amnesiac.”

  2. ahhhhhhhhhhhhh

  3. seth  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    Wow. Thanks very much, stereogum!

    Is that cover of ‘Let Down’ the same version from Pedro The Lion’s 2004 tour EP?

  4. This has to be a first – kudos to Stereogum. Loved Doveman’s and The Twilight Sad’s covers…and I’ve just started listening.

  5. Lauren  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    I love this idea. Thanks for doing this!

  6. > Is that cover of ‘Let Down’ the same version
    > from Pedro The Lion’s 2004 tour EP?

    Nope! These are all new! Enjoy.

  7. lyrics police  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    “ambition makes you look PRETTY ugly”.

  8. Nice! Can’t wait to give it a listen. I’m interested to hear just about anyone cover “Climbing Up The Walls.” Still my favorite Radiohead song ever.

  9. seth  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    > Nope! These are all new! Enjoy.

    Oh la la!

  10. joke police  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    lyrics police, stand back from the crime zone. this is my case now- i think that might be a joke.

  11. dude! yes! rad. i’ve been checking back all morning — this is truly awesome. cheers!

  12. jim  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    this is a great idea in theory … in actuality?
    wow. still trying to find the song in that “cover” of “paranoid android.”

  13. karma police  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    give me your badge and gun, joke police. I’m taking you off the beat.

  14. gabe  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    sometimes you have to hurt the ones you love???

  15. Thank you! thank you! This is great! How long did it take to compile all of these songs for you guys to release it today?

  16. El Payo  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    When will someone have the sack to do a cover version of The Bends?

  17. Joe  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    “never been much of a fan of “OK Computer” myself. It always just seemed like a necessary stop-gap that allowed them to reach the majestic heights of “Kid A” and “Amnesiac.”"

    Wow.

    Might want to give it another listen, brah.

  18. The Other Matthew  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    You should really get some .ZIP action going here, Stereogum.

  19. captain of the running gag police  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    ram it, karma police. i’m shutting down this whole operation.

  20. brian h  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    Thanks. This really is pretty cool.

    The most influential album I’ve been alive to see and believe in from day one.

    And still my favorite.

  21. El Payo  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    Hey – in the comments on the tracks it says ‘download b-sides at stereogum.com’. Does that mean some Pearly and Melatonin action?

  22. Digging the Vanderslice, this is way better than another Sgt. Pepper tribute. Can’t wait to hear the rest.

  23. kevin  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    that cold war kids cover is fucking atrocious

  24. secretary to the captain of the running gag police  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    can i get you a coffee, sarge?

  25. kylie  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    my shitty tuesday just got a whole lot better. thanks, gum.

  26. thanks s’gum!

    this is quite amazing :)

  27. Is Ms. Nicoleslaw responsible for that awesome cover art?

  28. Dino  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    this is great- one of my favorite albums of all time no doubt. I remember a couple of months ago “Let Down” came up on random and I remember thinking “this sounds like it could be released today- hasn’t aged at all.” And “Airbag”? my god…I wanna listen to it right now. Ok Computer/Kid A/Amnesiac- what an amazing run.

    I’ll check out the covers- thanks Stereogum!

  29. lyrics police  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    capt. –

    that’s okay, the case is closed anyway – they covered up the crime!

  30. lyrics police  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    no need captain. the case is closed – they’ve covered up the crime!

  31. Helluva lineup!

  32. Dino  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    this is great- one of my favorite albums of all time no doubt. I remember a couple of months ago “Let Down” came up on random and I remember thinking “this sounds like it could be released today- hasn’t aged at all.” And “Airbag”? my god…I wanna listen to it right now. Ok Computer/Kid A/Amnesiac- what an amazing run.

    I’ll check out the covers- thanks Stereogum!

  33. jackhammer  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    This is pretty cool…

    Has anyone listened to the reggae version of OK Computer? Or is that old news?

    If not check out Radiodread by the Easy Star All-Stars. Also cool.

  34. Other than the Cold War Kids covering my favorite OK Computer track, Stereogum actually outdid themselves .

  35. crustcake  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    bends/ok computer : amnesiac/kid a :: apples : oranges

  36. The Cold War Kids cover almost made me lose my lunch.. TERRIBLE!!

  37. RE: b-sides … keep an eye on the site this week.

  38. This has already been done in tribute to the 10 year mark of OK Computer @ http://www.hypeful.com

    It was put up on June 22.

    http://www.hypeful.com/2007/06/22/ok-computer-turns-10/

    Is this a rip-off??????

  39. Heath  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    This has already been done! There was a tribute to the 10 year mark of OK Comp. done over @ HYPEFUL.COM

    http://www.hypeful.com/2007/06/22/ok-computer-turns-10/

    It features a list of each song done as a cover!!!

    Is this a rip-off, s’gum???

  40. Really? Was the Cold War Kids cover that bad? I personally thought it was the best in the bunch, veering the loud controlled chaos into quieter terrain was a pretty fascinating choice. Almost every other track (aside from “Paranoid Android” and “Fitter Happier,” good stuff) was a dull, note-for-note retread of the original. If anything made me lose my lunch, it was that Sarah McLachlan-karaoke hack Worden.

  41. Been there, Heard that  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    The “Easy Star-All Stars” released a reggae version of OK Computer in 2006 called “Radiodread”. It’s a song-by-song cover album and it’s INCREDIBLE! Definitely worth a listen…

  42. mr. obvious  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    Well, Heath, it could only be a ripoff if all of these bands started recording their songs on on June 22nd or after—which I am sure they didn’t. Compilations like this don’t happen in 18 days.

    Great work, ‘gum.

  43. r*obox  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    Thanks, doooodz. No Surprises is especially killer. DANKE.

  44. crustcake  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    stereogum has been working on this for months, at least. consider how long it would take to see a project like this through to completion…

  45. Toffee  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    Heath, someone just collected those previously issued covers from various other recordings and wrote a short paragraph about the album.

    these are new takes with much more content.

    cool?

  46. Dick Head  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    Yeah, uh, Stereogum ripped off Hypeful’s badly executed version; commissioned a bunch of new covers; and improved upon the idea. Not a bad thing at all!

  47. gabriel  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    All I have to say is Stereogum needs to do this more often. Great idea! I’ve always wanted to compile a cover album of In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. Anyway, I hope this isn’t the last time Stereogum does this. The Bazan and Vanderslice covers blow me away, and that has nothing to do with the fact that they are two of my all-time favorite artists.

  48. jemaine  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    exactly heath, this is a rip off. hype assembled a mix of pre-recorded covers from who knows when, while stereogum commissioned bands to record brand-new covers for purposes of this project.

    you are retarded and should have your commenting license revoked. joke police, karma police, where you at?

  49. ian  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    “OK X: A Tribute to OK Computer is Stereogum’s first original music collection…” -Pitchfork

    Does MySplice count as an original music collection?

  50. candy bar police  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2007 0

    alright Heath, you heard the crowd. beat it.

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