Album: OK Computer
. . .
While I kind of suspect that “Subterranean Homesick Alien” was written because someone came up with Dylan-referencing title and they all thought was too good not to write a song around it, it’s also one of the coolest, spookiest songs on this cool, spooky album.
Set around a strutting, disjointed Phil Selway beat, echoing electric piano and guitars that sound like spaceships that are hovering just out of your peripheral vision “Subterranean Homesick Alien” plays with multiple meanings of “alien,” as he sounds so alienated from his life that he welcomes abduction from aliens he figures see us as entertainment.
Which come to think of it, is a thought I used to have all the time in my 20s & 30s — that the aliens watching me must be cracking up at whatever predicament I currently found myself in — before I got old and boring.
I wish that they’d swoop down in a country lane
Late at night when I’m driving
Take me on board their beautiful ship
Show me the world as I’d love to see it
I’d tell all my friends but they’d never believe me
They’d think that I’d finally lost it completely
I’d show them the stars and the meaning of life
They’d shut me away but I’d be alright, alright
I’m alright, alright
It all comes together on the chorus, where the beat stops and Selway slaps his high hat Yorke just repeats “uptight, uptight” over and over while the spaceship guitars hover overhead and swoop him right into the spaceship. It’s both utterly lovely and utterly transcendent, and capped by a couple of great drum rolls to boot.
In retrospect, it’s pretty funny that Radiohead started their album called OK Computer with songs about being brought back to save the universe, a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference and alien abduction. Of course, in 1997, we didn’t think of computers as devices that we had on our person at all times in order to be connected everything and and everyone else, but still.
“Subterranean Homesick Alien”
“Subterranean Homesick Alien” live in New York, 1997
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