We’re dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault to look back at one of Radiohead’s greatest songs in a brand new light as we share the isolated vocals of the band’s classic song ‘Karma Police’.
Taken from OK Computer, the song hit a height of number eight on the UK Singles Chart and cemented the band as the thinking man’s rock group. Something equally proved with the song’s iconic video.
Released in 1997, OK Computer proved that Radiohead were the alternative to the machismo of Britpop and the saccharine Ibiza scene. The album has since become a piece of the group’s growing iconography and a lot of that was down to the brilliant ‘Karma Police’.
The band’s leader Thom Yorke said that the song was about stress and “having people looking at you in that certain [malicious] way”. While the song’s title refers to ‘Karma Police’, an inside joke where the group will threaten to call the “karma police” on each other, the themes of the track are a little more menacing. He said: “It’s for someone who has to work for a large company. This is a song against bosses. Fuck the middle management!”
Though the track may feel like an intentionally serious affair considering Radiohead’s position as the smart outfit they were, the song has a light-hearted tone too. Singer Yorke and guitarist Jonny Greenwood have often emphasised in interviews that the song was humorous and “not entirely serious”.
For example, the line “He buzzes like a fridge / He’s like a detuned radio” refers to distracting, metaphorical background noise that Yorke calls “fridge buzz”, which even acts as one of the themes of the entire OK Computer. ‘Karma Police’ also similarly shares themes of insanity and dissatisfaction with capitalism as the album does.
Yorke’s vocal performance on any of Radiohead’s albums isn’t often the first thing people celebrate, instead, they choose to focus on the cerebral power of the band as a whole. But isolating the vocal of ‘Karma Police’ offers us a rare piece of artistic connection as you get to hear Yorke and his words in the clearest of ways. It highlights the singer’s sensational talent.
Listen below to Thom Yorke’s remarkable isolated vocal from Radiohead’s ‘Karma Police’.