Radiohead Album Reviews

Named after a Talking Heads’ song, Radiohead are the most critically acclaimed band to emerge in the 1990s. They convened informally in 1986 as teenagers while attending Abingdon School in Oxford, and were originally known as On A Friday. Frontman Thom Yorke infuses his gorgeous voice with his neuroses, while the band’s main weapon is guitarist Johnny Greenwood whose unpredictable style gives the band a vitality and edge. Drummer Phil Selway, guitarist Ed O’Brien, and bassist Colin Greenwood are all strong musicians as well, but less distinctive.

Radiohead initially enjoyed exposure with the song ‘Creep’ from their 1993 debut Pablo Honey, but as a whole the album was a developmental effort that only hinted at their potential. With their sophomore effort, 1995’s The Bends, Radiohead effectively clocked Brit-pop and 1990’s alt-rock; their consistent songs and Johnny Greenwood’s unorthodox style left pretenders like Oasis and Blur looking listless in comparison. With success, Radiohead became more ambitious; 1997’s OK Computer feels inspired by Pink Floyd’s spacey, nihilistic work, and is often cited as a key album of the 1990s.

2000’s Kid A was regarded as a major departure at the time, adding electronics and grooves to their sound, and often abandoning conventional song structures. Released at the height of their influence, it effectively stakes out the sonic territory for their later career. Since then, the group have settled into a more comfortable routine, releasing an album every few years to widespread interest and acclaim. While it’s simply impossible to repeat the incredible artistic growth of their first few albums, Radiohead have remained a vital creative force.

As much as I enjoy Radiohead, and despite that their technician’s daughter is a work colleague, I’ve always found them to be a band I admire more than a band I love. This is probably deliberate on the band’s part; there’s a detached austerity to Thom Yorke’s voice and lyrics, notably on OK Computer, that’s intentionally there as a critique of modern society. But it’s difficult to argue against the proposition that Radiohead are the most significant rock band of their era.

Best Ten Radiohead Songs

There There
Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
Everything In Its Right Place
The Tourist
Paranoid Android
Karma Police
All I Need