I used to read a lot of books about music - a quick count finds 30 on the shelves behind me - but I usually avoid books about just one band or album. Too often they are written by enthusiastic but uninformed fans or by disinterested hacks who are picking up an easy pay cheque. But as a fan of Radiohead and a reader of Tim Footman's blog, I was curious to read Welcome to the Machine. Fortunately Tim falls into neither of the categories above. He is clearly a fan but tempers his enthusiasm with a sharply critical ear and offers real insight into his subject.
Though the book is almost entirely about OK Computer, Radiohead's exceptional 1997 album, Tim uses the first two chapters to set out the band's career up to 1997 before embarking on a song-by-song analysis of the album. After that, there are chapters examining, among other things, the artwork, videos and live shows promoting the album. It's nothing if not thorough.
Barring the odd slip into rock critic cliche (the late Alan Freeman is briefly channeled to introduce "the mighty This Is Hardcore" by Pulp) it's well-written, clearly communicating a passion for the music. In almost every chapter, I found myself reaching for the iPod and thumbing through to the song in question.
The only unconvincing section comes at the end when Tim attempts to link OK Computer first to the death of indie music and later to "the death of the classic album" (which is the subtitle of the book). Though both are interesting debate topics I don't think Tim makes either case convincingly. This post would more than double in length if I explained what I think are the flaws in his argument and I don't have time to do that now but I might try to come back to it on my personal blog later this week.
You don't have to be a Radiohead fan to enjoy this book but I would think you need at least an admiration for their work. If you have that, then this is an essential read.