THE GREAT CURVE 010
curated by Todd Berryman
This one’s gonna be a short essay, in part because I’m still exploring all the awesomeness here. And it doesn’t quite fit the usual template, because it’s…well, a concept album, split across one decade, and not a lot of people picked up on it.
A conspiracy theory version of THE GREAT CURVE, today, with two albums, both by Radiohead.
OK Computer (1997) and In Rainbows (2007)
The former is the point where this band established themselves as The Next Big Thing, and the latter is a decade later, when the band changed how music is consumed.
But…it isn’t really all that simple.
OK Computer is when everyone started to realize, “oh, WOW, these guys actually have the goods!” They tapped into a heritage of really great albums-as-albums with this 1997 release, and it gave them the critical credibility to make them stand out. And why not? It was a great damned album. With In Rainbows, it changed how albums were distributed to the public, when the band said “you know what? Pay us what you think it’s actually worth,” by offering it online and circumventing the usual streams of distribution, asking potential listeners to pay for the album, but not necessarily hemorrhage money to do so. (It’s worth noting here that in the latter case, it’s reported that the band made more money on In Rainbows than they had on any other random album in their catalog. Also, it was eventually offered as a physical release, with a distribution deal negotiated on another label.)
Here’s where things get interesting. The two albums, it appears, work as a pair, a concept album rendered over a decade. A few savvy fans noticed that OK Computer and In Rainbows could be interwoven to create a masterwork version. And there is a sense that this was completely intentional, not an inspired accident like playing your copy of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon while watching The Wizard of Oz. Separated by ten years, and with some artful segues, the two albums fit together in almost spooky fashion. One version of the story can be found here.
The upshot of the theory is that Radiohead, having a fascination with the number 10, may have very intentionally designed the latter album to complement the former, and the tracks could be segued from one album to the other to create a larger, deeper version of the music.
Sure, you can call bullshit if you want. But I will say that this exercise has made me fall in love with these recordings all over again. Take a listen to this intermixed version, created by one fan and following the logic of the two albums, complete with crossfades, and then tell me, musically and lyrically, that this doesn’t make complete sense.