Tonight at American Beauty in New York, music enthusiasts from across the city are congregating to celebrate the 20th year anniversary of OK Computer, Radiohead’s epochal third studio album. First released in Japan on May 21st in 1997, OK Computer is often regarded as one of, if not the most, groundbreaking albums of the 1990s. With the exception of the penultimate track “Lucky” which was recorded in 1995, each song on OK Computer was recorded between 1996 and 1997 both in Bath and in Radiohead’s home county of Oxfordshire at the historic mansion, St. Catherine’s Court. Useless, totally irrelevant fact: St. Catherine’s Court for a period of time was rented by British pop singer Robbie Williams, and it was featured in the very first episode of the hit MTV show Cribs.
Radiohead’s previous two albums, Pablo Honey (1993) and The Bends (1995), followed more typical pop conventions by focusing on the electric guitar as well as traditional lyrics and instrumentation. OK Computer, on the contrary, celebrated the abstract, incorporated electronic elements, explored dystopic lyrical themes, and in doing so laid the ground work for the band’s perpetual groundbreaking sonic experimentation in each subsequent album. At one point in Meeting People Is Easy, a film that documented Radiohead’s world tour for OK Computer, lead singer Thom Yorke talks about some of his inspirations like The Smiths and REM and then muses, “The freakiest thing about all of this … is the idea that you would be one of those bands to somebody. That thing of it being imprinted on your heart, you know? … That in itself is a reason to keep going.” It was at about this point in Radiohead’s illustrious career that their reputation was elevated to savant worldwide prestige, and even the band was beginning to recognize the impact of their music.
In my pathetic attempt to serve justice to the importance of this record with words, it becomes so clear that the best way to honor the magic of historic music is through music itself. With this in mind, eleven different bands are taking the stage tonight at American Beauty to pay tribute to OK Computer. The format is enticing – each outfit gets about 20 minutes to perform, and each will play one song from OK Computer and one other song of their choosing (which does not have to be a Radiohead cover). The stack tonight includes Escaper (whose lead guitarist, Will Hanza, also runs Brookladelphia, the promotion agency that is hosting and throwing tonight’s extravaganza), Bad Faces (who’s performing Webster Hall on Tuesday, June 27th, tickets), Owl and Wolf, Dwight Remington (Dani Mari & Josh Steingard), Lauren Sky, Valerie Orth Music, Brooklyn Shanti, Cousin Earth (performing a concert cruise with our friends from Teddy Midnight on Thursday, July 27th, tickets), Johnny Butler, and last, but certinaly not least, Of Clocks and Clouds, who are performing with experimental metal powerhouse Ross Jenssen (interview) on Thursday, July 6th at Bowery Electric – buy your tickets here. The show kicks off at 8, and tickets can be purchased at the door. If you like Radiohead, which is synonymous with unequivocally good music, then you really shouldn’t miss this showcase tonight.