It's been twenty years since Radiohead gave warning to the era of technology with OK Computer. The album's message has become evermore apparent as quickly slowly becomes more prevalent in society, leaving us with a disparity between human and machine. Radiohead has shared a dramatic message in the new song from OKNOTOK, 'Man Of War,' continuing on with the message of OK Computer while giving it a new light.
The song itself really sounds like the era (which is fitting considering that's when it was recorded and written). Introduced by the familiar curious guitar sounds found in tracks like 'No Surprises,' floating synths, a dreamy bassline, and a depressed beat soon follow before Thom Yorke's ethereal vocals kick in. The verses are light and bluesy, but the choruses explode with a sort of Queen-like flair. By the end of the song, the track is bellowing with edgy guitars similar to that of 'Electioneering.' The song ends calmly, as if to come full circle and accept its message.
The message is portrayed strongly in the mysterious music video. It has classic Radiohead overtones, focussing on a disheveled businessman walking through English streets looking paranoid. The video switches between night and day, beautifully cutting between the two times seamlessly. As the man walks through the streets, he begins becoming more anxious as he discovers a phone in the middle of the street with a picture of him sitting on the bench at the beginning of the video. Soon thereafter, a group of younger people begin following him and ultimately chasing him, before it ends with him falling on train tracks and walking amongst them.
The video has many meanings, and they all play to the theme of OK Computer. One meaning revolves around the idea that we must live with all of our problems, new or old. The man runs from the group of people, representing the problems of his life as a man in work. When he falls over, he accepts that he has these issues and opens up to them. Another meaning, which plays closer to OK Computer and even gives it a brand new breath of air, is that of accepting a new era. The older businessman runs from the younger group as he becomes increasingly worried about his state after seeing the phone and the group following him. It's as if he is running from the changing world, not wanting to accept or live in it. When he finally walks amongst the group, he's accepted the changes society has gone through, walking amongst them as if to give up the ways of old.
Radiohead's dramatic message in 'Man Of War' from OKNOTOK gives a new credence to the message of OK Computer The 1997 album defined an era before it had begun, and now that we live inside that era, we must ask ourselves where the disparity lies between what natural human function is and what mechanical function is, or if there is even a line between technology and humanity any more. OK Computer is as relevant as ever today, and instead of giving warning, it now cautions about what may become of us today.
Rating: 89 / 100
Stream or buy 'Man Of War' on Apple Music: