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POP MUSIC | RECORD RACK

*** 1/2 RADIOHEAD, "OK Computer," Capitol

June 29, 1997|Sara Scribner

Since 1993, this outfit from Oxford, England, has been trying to hoist the dead weight of its American hit "Creep" off its shoulders, in the same way that Beck shed the stigma of "Loser." It has been a tougher task for Radiohead: The band's 1995 album, "The Bends," was nearly ignored except for the minor hits "Fake Plastic Trees" and "High and Dry," though the album showed that the group could make lush, sinewy music built on Pixies-like sound fragments and brawny guitar punches.

"OK Computer" proves that while Radiohead might not be a reliable hit-maker, it is a solid album band. The work is a broad, far-reaching nightmare of paranoia, aliens, "the future," technology and social disgust, and the band makes the fear inviting with a dreamy cushion of stunning musicality. Singer and songwriter Thom Yorke's high-pitched voice perfectly punctuates the atmosphere. He's caught somewhere between dread and redemption as he sings about drab, toxic town life.

The hands-down highlight of the album is "Paranoid Android." A testament to the band's dazzling ambition, the song mixes soft, chugging folk, staticky talk-chatter, Nirvana-inspired guitar rages and even hymn-like prayers. A hit? Probably not, but Radiohead has created something far more satisfying, chilling and, in the end, thought-provoking.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four stars (excellent).

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* Excerpts from these albums and other recent pop music releases are available on The Times' World Wide Web site. Point your browser to: http://www.latimes.com/soundclips

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