In the mid 1990s, rock music was desperately in need of a post-grunge banner carrier, and English bands such as Oasis and Radiohead seemed to be the benefactors of that anticipation. And so it happened, in 1997, that Radiohead recorded arguably the most important album of the decade. “OK Computer” was a stunning soundscape that resonated throughout the world of rock music. Here was an inspired and talented band stepping into the unknown, remaking itself and sounding completely fresh, adventurous, and dense with layers and dynamics. It was almost unanimously lauded and even revered as perhaps one of the great rock albums of all time.
This documentary is heavy with that context. Radiohead’s success in 1997 came so abruptly and unexpectedly that this provides a time capsule look at the band’s ascension. We’re seeing the band dealing with its growing popularity, the ever-increasing attention from the media, photo shoots, and the grind of touring. We are witness to Radiohead thrust into the role of an “important” band, with all the responsibilities that role expects; and understandably, they’re fairly uncomfortable with the mantle.
It’s easy to feel sympathy for Radiohead as the documentary unfolds, because we’re seeing the band’s privacy slipping away from them, little by little. There’s always the next show, the next interview, the next video, the next meeting, the next commitment. At times it feels a bit manic and more than a little claustrophobic, so it’s possible to say the film is true to the band’s experience during that chaotic year. This isn’t a perfect film by any means, and is probably best left to Radiohead completists. I would definitely not recommend it as a way to introduce Radiohead to a curious friend.