Computer Upgrade: Is The Radiohead Anniversary Edition Worth It?

To upgrade or not to upgrade? That is the question music fans always face when an artist or band re-releases an album they already own. Anniversary editions, special editions, deluxe editions, super deluxe editions… how many versions of one album does a fan need?

Case in point: OK Computer by Radiohead will be reissued on June 23 in a new 20th anniversary edition, dubbed OKNOTOK 1997-2017. Obviously, you already own OK Computer. If you’re more than a casual Radiohead fan, there’s a strong chance you also own the EPs that came from that album, Airbag /How Am I Driving? and No Surprises/Running From Demons, not to mention several singles, all of which contained new b-sides or live tracks.

OKNOTOK takes the classic album and adds a second disc of b-sides. The first three tracks are truly new, unreleased songs. The remaining eight tracks previously appeared on singles and EPs circa 1997.

Here is the track list for OKNOTOK:

Disc One- OK Computer:

01. Airbag
02. Paranoid Android
03. Subterranean Homesick Alien
04. Exit Music (For A Film)
05. Let Down
06. Karma Police
07. Fitter Happier
08. Electioneering
09. Climbing Up The Walls
10. No Surprises
11. Lucky
12. The Tourist

Disc Two- Bonus Tracks:

01. I Promise (Previously Unreleased)
02. Man Of War (Previously Unreleased)
03. Lift (Previously Unreleased)
04. Lull
05. Meeting In The Aisle
06. Melatonin
07. A Reminder
08. Polyethylene (Parts 1 & 2)
09. Pearly
10. Palo Alto
11. How I Made My Millions

If you’re a die-hard fan, this anniversary edition is a must-own if only for the three “new” songs. But chances are you already have all the other bonus tracks on the EPs and singles in your collection. In fact, you probably own the excellent 2009 collector’s edition of OK Computer, that included a comprehensive 15 track bonus disc. Here’s the track list for that release:

OK Computer Deluxe Edition Bonus Disc:

01. Polyethylene (Parts 1 & 2)
02. Pearly
03. A Reminder
04. Melatonin
05. Meeting In The Aisle
06. Lull
07. Climbing Up The Walls (Zero 7 Mix)
08. Climbing Up The Walls (Fila Brazillia Mix)
09. Palo Alto
10. How I Made My Millions
11. Airbag (Live In Berlin)
12. Lucky (Live In Florence)
13. No Surprises (Live on BBC Radio One)
14. Climbing Up The Walls (Live on BBC Radio One)
15. Exit Music (For A Film) (Live on BBC Radio One)

As you can see, the collector’s edition features all the previously released music from OKNOTOK, plus seven more songs. On top of that, the collector’s edition included a DVD of six OK Computer music videos.

At the time of its release, Radiohead criticized the collector’s edition as being a cash-grab by their record label. True as that may be, there is no denying the fact that the set was jam packed with great material. This makes it all the more frustrating that the new anniversary edition feels so lackluster in comparison. After all, making Radiohead fans buy yet another copy of OK Computer (probably for the third time after the original version and the collector’s edition) just for three new songs feels just a little bit like—dare I say—a cash grab.

But what is the alternative? Of course we want the new/unreleased songs. But perhaps they could have been added to the end of a single-disc anniversary edition of OK Computer as bonus tracks rather than needing a second disc of yet more music the fans already own. Or the band could have assembled a truly comprehensive deluxe edition that included the three new songs along with all of the previously released b-sides, remixes and live tracks, plus perhaps a DVD of videos and concert footage for good measure.

Radiohead must have at least entertained that idea. After all, the deluxe vinyl release of OKNOTOK does include even more unreleased material in the form of early demos on a cassette tape. Literally on a cassette tape. Hey guys, why not 8-track?

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Will I buy OKNOTOK? Yes, absolutely. I need those three new songs. Would I buy OKNOTOK if it had only included previously released b-sides? Probably not. Like many Radiohead fans, I already own all the singles, EPs and the collector’s edition, so I have all those songs multiple times over.

If you’re a casual Radiohead fan, though, your mileage may vary with this new set. If for any inexcusable reason you do not already own OK Computer, though, OKNOTOK is a required purchase.