New Thing #259: Radiohead

RadioheadA few weeks ago Thom Yorke was on WTF with Marc Maron. I really enjoyed the interview, and it occurred to me as I listened that I didn't know very much about Radiohead, the band for which Yorke is the lead singer.

The extent of my Radiohead knowledge, I think, is their OK Computer album, which came out in 1997.

There are a few possible reasons for this:

1) I was confounded by what "OK Computer" meant when that album came out. Those two words didn't really go together in my brain.

2) The video for Paranoid Android, one of the singles off that album, was on MTV constantly. I'm sure you've seen it. It's a cartoon - I must have seen it come on 1,000 times that year...and I'm not sure I watched it all the way through once.

3) Karma Police, another single off that album, was on the radio a ton through my college years.

For this Music Monday, though, I listened to their album Pablo Honey.

The album was suggested by my friend Justin, who, when I texted him for Radiohead suggestions offered this: "I don't really like them much anymore. I have the first 3 albums. I happen to love Pablo Honey, which is their very first album. It's a great pop album before they decided to just make weird ambient noise." (This is why Justin is a great resource for my Music Mondays - I couldn't quite put my finger on why Radiohead didn't much interest me. That last comment kind of sums up what my impression of them was.)

Before they made 'weird ambient noise', though, I wasn't much of an album buyer. I was familiar with Creep, because that was on the radio constantly in the years leading up to college, and then while I was in college - I feel like WBCN in Boston (which was always on at the Boston University gym where I exercised and was also the preferred station of one of my college roommates) played it once an hour. Until I listened to it on the album I never knew there was such an explicit-language lyric repeated so often.

I liked Pablo Honey - I'm not positive I knew any of the other songs on the album, but a couple sounded vaguely familiar. It could have been just that they reminded me of what I expected songs on a Radiohead album to sound like - or maybe I have actually heard the album somewhere before.

As I investigated Radiohead a little more I discovered other songs they had done which I didn't realize was them - I'll categorize them as "Songs You Hear On The Radio And Don't Really Realize Who Sings Them"...which I suppose makes them somewhat generic and is probably not a real compliment to the artists who record them: High and Dry is the main one I didn't realize was Radiohead...and in a brief listen to a bunch of the songs on Best of Radiohead it occurred to me that I could have heard any of those songs on WBCN in the late '90s and not been able to tell the difference. (I would never have associated Radiohead with a band like the Gin Blossoms...but as I listened to Pablo Honey there were times I thought they could have been any '90s band, and Gin Blossoms was one that came to mind.)

Anyway, if the early albums are similar to Pablo Honey, I might try them out at some point. But like Justin, I don't think I would enjoy the later stuff either - partly because I know for a fact I don't much enjoy the stuff from OK Computer.