Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Weakest Song on the Best Albums - OK Computer

One way to rile up the blogger community is to state your opinion on something and get people to voice their opinion's back. And since I focus on music and movies, I am starting another round of posts called Weakest of the Best where I will look at an artist's best album and pick the weakest song and say why or a great filmmakers weakest film and say why it's the weakest in hopes to hear what you think. Easy enough.

And where better to start than with Radiohead! Lord knows everyone and their mother has an opinion on Radiohead. Whether you think they are overrated crap or one of our generations best, you have to admit they have quite the loyal following and easily one of the most important albums of the 90's to their credit. That album is far and away OK Computer which has some great musical moments and some of the most interesting arrangements. There is no doubt that every song on the album is of high caliber goodness or at least intriguing in it's composition. This is the bridge between their rock sound and their electronic sound to come in the Oughts. Nevertheless, the point of this post is to try and figure out which song on this classic album is in fact the weakest. And for me, it's not that hard.

Many people that I know point to "Let Down" as the weakest link, but they'd be wrong. Others say "The Tourist" is too slow and boring, but after such a workout that the album puts you through, the melancholy closer is a welcome swell of gorgeous songwriting. It's also easy to look at "Fitter Happier" as a non-song, but that isn't the case. It is a song and it is quite dark and twisted. If anything it is the saving grace of the weakest moment on the album.

And there it is. "Karma Police" is by far the albums weakest link. Maybe it's unfair to give the albums biggest single as the weakest song because you might think I am saying it's weak because I heard it a million times on Y 100. No. it's the basic structure of the song that really kind of makes it the weakest track. Truth be told, this song was the reason I didn't really get into Radiohead until a few years later. Not that I hate the song, by all means I don't. It's just that in the grand scheme of the album, it comes at a point where I'm expecting more. "Airbag" is a strong opener, "Paranoid Android" leads you to believe nothing is going to get better. "Subterranean Homesick Alien" proves the listeners wrong in what is a gorgeous song of texture and melody. "Exit Music (For a Film)" is a melancholoy epic of love and "Let Down" is a wall of sound. "Karma Police" puts a stop on the wonder and awe effect and let's us hear a more standard track. A more typical song than the rest of the album boasts. It's not a bad song, it's just not as good as everything else. It's a tad bit boring, predictable and generic. And the video? Meh. Kinda cool I guess but nothing spectacular.

No that's said and done, let's hear it. Weakest song on OK Computer other than this. Try it.

Next time on Weakest of the Best, I will take on Stanley Kubrick.


Ali D said...

Oh man, a tough choice. I agree that Let Down is amazing, the harmonies at the end are sublime. And I like the way The Tourist peaks at the end.

Karma Police sounds great at the end, when the "for a minute there/I lost myself" lyric starts. It's a small shift and I love the dynamics. I think I would say Subterranean Homesick Alien is the weakest,I just feel there's not much to it. Still an awesome album though.

Anonymous said...

I always considered Karma Police the twelfth best song on OK Computer. The band themselves consider it the silliest song on the album; it does contain the lyric "phew!" after all.

Advocates will point out the haunting bass line and slow dissension into distortion towards the song's end, but its structure leading to that point is far too basic when put up against the other eleven songs on the album.

jmcleoson said...

In least likable order (which is still good)

Crawling up the walls
Karma Police
Let Down

I actually think the middle as a whole sags a little bit, but that's just because the ends are so incredibly good. And it's still the best album of the past 25 years.

Karma Police was the fun first single, but after time, I think it fades. In fact, I don't think this will actually rile up people that much.