October 4, 2007

Hysterical and Useless

I couldn't even wait to get back home. The new NME and Melody Maker had arrived at my corner coffee/magazine shop. In them were the reviews for OK Computer. It was a Monday. The album was coming out via import on Friday. The next Tuesday American stores were to receive what surely would be the greatest album ever made.

Why did I care so much? Perhaps it was Thom Yorke's impossibly exaggerated angst on The Bends. I related to it more than my friends and family could have possibly wanted. But that was me. I relished the moodswings, the misunderstandings, and the misgivings I invented with my surroundings and my generation's dismal lot in a world that was crumbling around me at this very moment. This new album was to be my album. It was going to understand me. It was going to be perfect.

The NME trumpeted the album with a 10/10. "Age-defining" and "one of the greatest albums of living memory". Of course it would be. They understood the global trepidations. My trepidations.

I opened the Melody Maker for more affirmation and was struck down. "I can't think of any time I'd ever want to listen to it." It continued "I can't work out whether I like it, although I think I like it very much indeed. I definitely know it isn't good for me."

I had already determined that these reviews were not about OK Computer, they were about me. So naturally I ignored the criticism and soldiered on. The Melody Maker did too naming OK Computer its second-best album of 1997. I bought the gatefold vinyl, the CD, the import singles and B-sides and I listened and I listened and I heard. The music was so new and so different. This was the future. An unpleasant future but that's what I had.

The album became a necessary part of my life but the Melody Maker criticism still lingered. "I can't think of any time I'd ever want to listen to it." Maybe he was right. My personal marriage with the album was making me miserable. The album's morbid conclusions and horrific dramatic thrusts were too appealing; a siren song into, at best, a lasting dreadfulness. I never made an active decision but at some point I stopped listening.

So when I listened again yesterday I listened as an outsider. I still shuddered at the crescendos of Exit Music (for a Film) and Let Down. I still knew all the words, the intra-song transitions, the key changes and the complex time switches but I didn't need the album. It left me with a hopefulness and a joy for the future because this beautiful album is now a part of the past. "Let down and hanging around"? Not at all.


polchic said...

I am glad morbid conclusions and horrific dramatic thrusts are no longer appealing to you.

venerableseed said...

are you being sarcastic? I'm really not sure.