Radiohead's new album,
OK Computer, has emerged as one of
the most acclaimed releases of the year, but no one -- including
the band -- was anticipating a warm reception.
It's a challenging but superbly
realized collection of songs
focused vaguely on the alienating effects of modern living.
Not exactly Top 40 fair,
a fact exacerbated by Radiohead's
decision to release as an opening single Paranoid Android, a
meandering, seven-minute Frankenstein monster of a song,
stitched together from various musical ideas.
The group's Phil Selway says
the quintet was braced for a frosty
commercial and critical greeting. So was their label, EMI-Capitol
"When we first delivered
the album to Capitol, their first reaction
was, more or less, `Commercial suicide.' They weren't really into
it. At that point, we got The Fear. How is this going to be
received?" says Selway, who joins the group at the Congress
Centre tomorrow, double-billed with Scotland's Teenage Fanclub.
But Selway is generous, crediting
the support OK Computer
received from the label, which launched an unorthodox advertising
campaign, taking out full-page ads in the agenda-setting British
press, featuring singer Thom Yorke's lyrics for the track Fitter
Happier writ large on a blank background.
"We weren't expecting
this level of good will towards it. It has
certainly surpassed any expectations so far," he says.
"Even though I don't think
the album is quite what they were
expecting ... they are looking for ways of promoting it that are
appropriate to the record."
Come on, Phil.
Isn't there a slight possibility
that OK Computer is just that good,
that people are picking up on it on their own, without prodding
from critics, radio stations or ads?
"Well, hopefully," he says.
"That is the way it happened
with (Radiohead's second album)
The Bends. It was a distinctly slow-burner of an album. Part of
that was because it spread by word-of-mouth. People were able
to respond to it because they thought it was good music."
Much of OK Computer was written
and worked-out during
Radiohead's support slot last year on the road with Alanis
Morissette (who covered The Bends' Fake Plastic Trees early in
her own tour).
Recording took place in the
rustic splendor of Bath, in a
temporary studio rigged up in the home of Dr. Quinn, Medicine
Woman, actress Jane Seymour.
"It made our performances
a lot more relaxed. We tended to
clam up in conventional studios.
"I think it was sufficiently
cut off for us to immerse ourselves in
the album, but not so cut off that it turned into a scene from The
Shining," he says.
"The Bends was an introspective
album ... There was an awful
lot of soul searching. To do that again on another album would be