Radiohead’s Entirely Sadboy, ‘Just Fine’ Version of ‘OK Computer’ That Never Was
Celebrating 20 years of OK Computer is rather insane — that's 20 years of a record that shook up the world of rock as we know it, establishing Radiohead as one of the most important and influential forces of the recent past. Like them or not, there is no denying the impact.
The latest version of OK Computer — the one that celebrates two decades since the record shook the foundations — features a trio of unreleased tracks, the first of which is "I Promise," the subject of of the new video above. (Let's be real, though — in the era of YouTube, this track has been available in some form for many, many years.) The track follows the well-trod path of another Radiohead classic, The Bends favorite "High & Dry," which is propelled by acoustic guitar and Thom Yorke's breaking croon. If you're a fan of that track, you'll probably have at least a passing interest in the bonus disc of the LP reissue, which is filled with b-sides and rarities that all seem to nod to the pseudo-acoustic (and comparatively straightforward) approach on The Bends.
But what the b-sides and rarities release reveals about the band is the direction that OK Computer could have gone: an entire LP without the odd intricacies and interesting artistic choices that made the record so varied and compelling. The bonus disc leans on the Yorke-as-sadboy direction that made "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" and "High & Dry," two hits from The Bends, so successful. Songs like "I Promise," "Lull," "Pearly" and others fall in line with that aesthetic, and less so with the experimental approach that made the final version so captivating. Sure, there are more ambitious offerings in the form of "How I Made My Millions," "Palo Alto" and "Polyethylene (Parts 1& 2)," but in the end, we wonder a big "what if" in respect to the band going in a more conventional and commercial direction.
They say that OK Computer was the LP that killed Britpop, and signaled a new and more ambitious direction for rock on both sides of the pond. If "I Promise" had slipped past the goalie, we might be listening to a lot more Blur and Oasis.
OK COMPUTER 20th ANNIVERSARY DISC 2
1. "I Promise"
2. "Man of War"
5. "Meeting in the Aisle"
7. "A Reminder"
8. "Polyethylene (Parts 1 & 2)"
10. "Palo Alto"
11. "How I Made My Millions"