Going back to 1998, this song was my favorite one. Once again, I was 10 years old and Let Down charmed me in a very strange way. The combination of melancholic singing along with unbelievably appealing instrumental work and the energy of Thom Yorke’s voice captivated every single brain cell I had. (At that age, they weren’t that many…really.)
Fast-forwarding to 2005; I rediscovered this song in the middle of a huge cultural transition in my life. I went from living in a small Colombian town to live in one of the biggest cities in the world. The personal meaning of Let Down changed totally. All of the sudden I was “hanging around” in a world of “transport, motorways and tramlines,” invaded with the “emptiest of feelings:” disappointment and alienation. My nostalgic thoughts were connected to my initial perception of this polluted and overwhelming environment of cold buildings and cold souls. It was depressing but inevitable.
However, Let Down lyrics might talk about dissatisfaction but it simultaneously revitalizes the listener with the energy of its dreamy music. It is contradictory but it works perfectly. Without noticing it, you are singing a really sad song as it was the most beautiful thing ever. (You could call that “The Radiohead Effect”) There are two sentences that I think matter the most in the song: “You know where you are,” a conscious realization of the atmosphere around the listener, which it is the psychological version of “identify the problem, first.” Then, “One day I’m gonna grow wings, a chemical reaction;” which is the hopeful idea of leaving it all or disappear instantly.
Let Down’s last minute and a half is not the type of high dynamic discharge Radiohead makes us used to. Among the beautiful arpeggio of the electric guitar, the background acoustic sound, the soft bass and drums and the appearance of a computerized beat this part is unusually optimistic. Somehow, that mechanized computer sound always makes me think of spaceships and UFOs. I believe that there are other songs in Ok Computer that have certain hints to these motifs, such as Subterranean Homesick Alien and The Tourist. So, maybe at the end, one huge extraterrestrial ship will take the listener away from all the chaos he or she is living. Not exactly wings… but close enough.
Once again, for my personal meaning, the beautiful instrumentation and Thom Yorke’s addicting voice… I rate this song 5 out of 5.
Now check this really cool video:Lyrics found in the CD Booklet of Ok Computer- 1997. Credits also to greenplastic.com