I trust I can rely on your vote

OK Computer must be one of the most talked about albums of all time. And I would happily put money on it being the most talked about album on the Internet. Who the hell am I to think I can add anything to the discussion with this blog? Well, I’m giving it a go, by talking about the track that on the whole least fills a Radiohead fan with joy, Electioneering.

Now I want to put it straight out there that I really like Electioneering. That point needs to be made instantly, so that there’s no uncertainties about my stance. It’s a great rock track, that’s structured well, with the vast riffs giving way to a jittery, spine-tingling solo. It really harks back to Radioheads punk days, whilst still being a mature and modern piece of work. I don’t think many people would disagree with its quality, but there is a general agreement within both the Radiohead fan community, as well as the general critics community that it is the weak link on a near-perfect album. Why should this be?

The standard answer given is that Electioneering doesn’t ‘fit’ with the template set out by the rest of the album. If I were to pick some random adjectives generally used to describe OK Computer, (“Sonic”, “Gloomy”, “Tense”), I would agree that Electioneering is not in sync with the blueprint for the rest of the album. Its position on the album, following the eerie Fitter Happier, also causes some scorn. An electronic, philosophical voice leading into… just another rock song? How annoying.

It is the only track on the album in which Thom Yorke really lets loose in terms of anger, with the exception of about 30 seconds of Paranoid Android. Imagine the album, if you would, with the vocals remaining staid, controlled almost throughout. Where the mood remains uniform, and where you know that every time one track ends the next one will keep up the same stylistic thread. Would this make it a better album? OK, I’m sure a lot of people will still be saying “Yes, yes it would”. And I think therein we find an interesting and subtle difference between two types of music listeners.

There are those people who like an album to be a cohesive piece, a 50 minute record rather than a dozen 4 minute pieces. These I will colloquially (and probably inaccurately) refer to as “Electioneering-haters”. These people will scorn those who pick and chose tracks from an album to listen to, and can be heard uttering phrases such as “as the artist intended”. I don’t mean to deride these people, or call them elitist, but as I am not one of them, I feel compelled to. So apologies.

The other type of music listeners, the “Electioneering-lovers”, will be those who like to rate each individual track. They will listen to a lot of radio, and will make a point of visiting as many websites as possible in a bid to find obscure b-sides of live bootlegs by their favourite bands. Often they will be found using the shuffle all function and tirelessly organising Towering Above The Rest into a coherent order (I am now presuming these hypothetical people are Radiohead fans).

Those are two extremes, of course. There’s a lot of grey area in between, of course. But I have to say I sit much closer to the second type than the first. Of course I generally listen to albums all the way through, and I enjoy them that way, as pieces of work. However, I do not enjoy an album that relies on only one way of thinking throughout. An Electioneering-hater will state that an album must be entirely self-contained, in a way, with the innards of the album all connecting together perfectly. To me, this seems dull. An album that follows perfectly and seamlessly on from itself the whole way through? Where is the unpredictability? Where is the excitement of not knowing what the album will deliver next?

Another example would be The National’s two much lauded and most recent albums, Alligator and Boxer. I would say that Boxer is stylistically consistent throughout, keeping a steady hand and using the musical equivalent of its “indoor voice” on every track. Alligator mixes up the moods, so that the listener, even one who has memorized the tracklist, will still be unsure as to what comes next, it could be a sweet melancholy anthem as equally as it could be a shouty fist-pumping rock track. I simply cannot help but prefer Alligator, despite it having some weak parts. It has contrast and sweeping changes, something Boxer cannot muster in an attempt to remain fixed in one position.

So there you have it. That is how I enjoy albums, and also a way of determining a person’s musical listening preference, all extrapolated from just one song, Electioneering.

Er, this blog wasn’t nearly as much about OK Computer as I might have led you to believe. But I’m sure you’ll get over it by reading the 78 billion other blogs that have written about why it is under-rated /over-rated /under-appreciated /over-apreciated. So go there instead.

I have put off writing a blog about my favourite albums of the 00’s until it actually gets to the end of the decade. That seems logical, and also gives me 3 more months to discover some new music to put in there. And it also allows me to scour Pitchfork’s 200 Albums Of The Decade (released in parts between September 28 and October 2) in a bid to ensure I haven’t missed any gems.

I have just finished listening to Broken Social Scene’s self-titled album for the first time. It has a lot good about it, but it just doesnt warrant its 63 minute length unfortunately. I shall press on.

‘Til next time.


About Alex Pavitt
I work in the field of emotion. My tools are instinctual feelings and my laptop is the medium between my brain and the outside world. I deconstruct and rebuild. I imagine. I steal other people's lyrics because somtimes, my own words aren't enough. I spend all of my time somewhere inside my head. I worship Douglas Adams, and in the back of my mind I am always painfully aware that I will never be as good as him or, for that matter, anybody else.

One Response to I trust I can rely on your vote

  1. Tom says:

    I want albums to a coherent work, and i love electioneering, and think it fits perfectly with the structure and sound of ok computer.
    it is the equivalent (in alot of respects) to optimistic in kid a.

    Also i would have to say that the thom yorke’s anger that you mentioned reaches its climactic conclusion in climbing up the walls. that is an angry song.

    but yeah, people who dont think electioneering fits, can’t tell mood/style over tempo.

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