Living with…Radiohead…for a week

I’ll confess upfront.  Prior to this week I’d never listened to OK Computer, and therefore I was a little nervous.  Was I going to like this acclaimed classic of the late 20th century, topping every poll of greatest albums.  What if I didn’t like it?  What if it was a massive disappointment?

I need not have worried – very soon, I knew I was in the presence of a masterpiece.  Admittedly, not a very cheerful and uplifting masterpiece, but an amazing mix that makes for a perfect whole.  From the straightforward rock of Airbag to the disturbing Climbing Up The Walls; from the overblown rhapsody of Paranoid Android to the bleak ballads of Exit Music and No Surprises.  A modern Dark Side of the Moon?

So what’s it all about?  It feels a cold disturbing world where people are disconnected from each other, where technology has alienated us. Technology has submerged us.  The album is written pre-internet (1997) and yet even now when we are all so much more connected by technology it still makes sense.  The internet age means that we have so many new ways to ‘speak’ – email, facebook, twitter, texting – and we can do it from anywhere – on our phones, in our front rooms, in a coffee shop.  But we can still feel very lonely,  a different type of loneliness submerged by the sheer volume of communication!

See, just writing about this album turns you into a morose philosopher!

So what was I going to do about this technological alienation?

After the first listen I knew…I was going to get my inbox down to zero! It all made sense.  I was going to be master of all that data washing over me.  I was going to take control.   Monday morning there were 1251 emails sitting there from the last 3 months, and I was going to get them sorted by the end of the week.  By lunchtime up to 1280, so I started off well.

I flirted with a simple tactic…I could just delete them all.  If they were really that important then someone would come back to me, and I would at least have gained control, albeit briefly before the backlash. However, I’ve had enough of ‘missing data’ in the last few weeks.  So I decided to do it properly and by Tuesday set a  more realistic target of the end of February…the graph below shows progress to date!

A promising early start but then its probably like a diet – the first few pounds generally come off a lot easier.   I then started to feel like King Canute just grateful to hold back the new waves flooding in…

The other ambition fuelled this week was to record a song.  I was of course inspired by Fitter Happier where the vocals are provided by a Macintosh synthesised voice (not Stephen Hawking as you naturally assume when you first hear it).  The huge advantage being that my vocals didn’t have to enter in to the equation and ruin everything.  Given the time I had available…

Fitter Happier Rekindled by no81bob

Vocals: Amazon Kindle 3 Text to Speech (experimental)

Recording: Back Room, Thursday 4th February 2011 with Android Virtual Recorder

Background music: from Klaus Schulze’s Audentity

You may detect some background noise as one of the cats passes in front of the microphone but I’d like to think it adds to the character of the piece.  Given a modicum of musical talent and probably more effort than the 10 minutes I devoted to setting up the recording it might be a masterpiece.  As it stands you might want to move on very swiftly to the original piece below.  Although not representative of the album as a whole, I love the words read out as a list here.  This particular clip pulls out the themes in animation so well:

Fitter, happier, more productive,
comfortable,
not drinking too much,
regular exercise at the gym
(3 days a week),
getting on better with your associate employee contemporaries ,
at ease,
eating well
(no more microwave dinners and saturated fats),
a patient better driver,
a safer car
(baby smiling in back seat),
sleeping well
(no bad dreams),
no paranoia,
careful to all animals….

OK Computer is a masterpiece.

Glee Watch: Rendition of River Deep, Mountain High was my favourite moment of Series Two so far.  All in the wiggle.

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