Remember that scene in Rushmore when Max Fischer fakes a bike accident to get cozy with Ms. Cross? He slyly invites himself in through the bedroom window, making himself comfortable while his prospective sweetie rushes off to get bandages and ointment. Casually, Max pops in a cassette of romantic music before she returns. As she carefully leans in to apply ointment to his wounded forehead, she notices something peculiar.
"Is this fake blood?", she asks.
Classic Album Under Review: Radiohead's "OK Computer" is, unfortunately, fake blood. It wants so badly to provide a critical dissection of the landmark 1997 album, but it's been sloppily thrown together almost ten years too late. OK Computer has been analyzed countless times already, through countless music journals, radio interviews and fansites, and we've long approached the point when originality is growing less and less likely. In other words, I'll be brief.
I first bought OK Computer in September of 1997, a few months after its original release date. Having owned and enjoyed both of their prior studio albums, I had no trouble picking up their latest effort (though admittedly, I was actually shopping for Bjork's Homogenic). Both remain some of my favorite discs of the past few years, but OK Computer still wins by a landslide. I wasn't alone in my love for the album, of course---and though OK Computer dominated year-end lists in 1997, it hasn't aged much in the last decade. Since then, I've formed my own opinions on what the songs mean; as such, I'd imagine most other fans of the album have done the same.
Here's the first and last problem with this installment of Classic Album Under Review: it simply doesn't tell us what we can't figure out for ourselves. Clips from each of the album's 12 tracks begin each chapter, eventually fading into the background to make way for…well, people that aren't Radiohead. Had any of the five band members chimed in with their own thoughts, we'd have something worth watching. An interview with producer Nigel Godrich would've been entertaining, even. Yet here, we're presented with a handful of dreadfully obvious statements, bookended by dry, dull narration.
Long story short: if you like the album, listen to it.
This situation is especially frustrating, since Radiohead's practically a no-show on DVD to begin with. Visual scraps are few and far between, such as Grant Gee's Meeting People is Easy and Seven Television Commercials, a brief collection of The Bends / OK Computer-era music videos. Simply put, anything would've been better than this: a DVD-Audio release of the album, or even a polished OKC-era concert performance come to mind. On its own terms, Classic Album Under Review simply isn't worth the time of serious Radiohead fans. The DVD presentation doesn't add much to the main feature, offering a standard technical presentation and little to no bonus material. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in its original 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio, this installment of Classic Album Under Review is curiously exempt from anamorphic enhancement (especially frustrating, since the main menus are 16x9 enhanced). For the most part, these talking head interviews look fairly good, boasting modest clarity and a natural color palette. Edge enhancement and other digital problems are few and far between.
The 2.0 Dolby Digital audio mix is simple but satisfying, offering clear dialogue and strong music snippets. Unfortunately, no English subtitles or Closed Captioning options are available during the main feature.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
The menu designs for this release (presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, seen above) are simple enough, offering easy navigation and a clean layout. The 59-minute main feature has been divided into 13 chapters, while no discernable layer change was detected during playback. This one-disc release is housed in a standard black keepcase with a matching slipcover. No inserts of any kind have been included.
Not much to dig through here, aside from the self-proclaimed "Hardest Interactive Radiohead Quiz in the World, Ever" and a few basic Text Biographies for the interviewees. The quiz itself is fairly difficult; though a good portion of answers are hinted at during the main feature, I was able to nail 19 of the 25 questions right out of the gate (don't worry, the answers are provided at the end). Overall, though, it's a lackluster assortment of bonus material.
Fantastic album, not-so-fantastic DVD release. Though most dedicated fans of Radiohead's OK Computer should automatically suspect any "unauthorized" releases, it's evident from the very beginning that this dry, uneventful series of interviews won't shed much light on the album. If you can stomach the entire 59-minute affair without simply wanting to listen to OK Computer instead, you're a more patient viewer that I am. With a basic technical presentation and a sparse amount of bonus features, Classic Album Under Review is loosely aimed at casual fans of the band. Unfortunately, "casual Radiohead fans" are practically non-existent…and so is this release's overall appeal. Skip It.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, mocking passers-by and writing things in third person.