EDITOR’S NOTE: While putting together my best-of-the-decade lists, I noticed there was nary a Radiohead song or album in sight. I realized that’s because I’d never really given them much attention and probably had only listened to one album in its entirety. I decided to rectify that by listening to their entire catalog, so I could finally have an informed opinion on what many consider to be the greatest band of my generation.
Four of the seven original tracks from their first two EPs made it onto Radiohead’s debut full-length album. They include “I Can’t”, “Thinking About You”, “You” and “Prove Yourself”, all of which I enjoyed in their original form.
The album opens with three-time champ “You”, which continues to sound more polished with each go-around.
The next track, “Creep”, is the one that put Radiohead on the map. The band really put everything together for the first time on this song. And, much to the dismay of a lot of diehards, this still has to be considered among the band’s top two most popular songs — along with “Karma Police”.
Radiohead quickly follows the slow introspection of “Creep” with the distorted, rocking “How Do You?”, which sounds like it came right out of The Replacements’ catalog.
On “Stop Whispering”, the first thing I thought of was the mumbling, whiny vocals of Kurt Cobain. But rather than turn into a grunge song, the fourth track becomes a more melodic, shoegazer pop song. This was eventually released as a single.
The biggest surprise came on “Thinking About You”, which went from a distorted, punkish track on each of the EPs to a suddenly toned-down acoustic track. The band also extended it about 20 seconds here. I’m not sure which version I prefer.
On “Anyone Can Play Guitar” — which was released as the band’s second single after “Creep” — it sounds like something of a mash-up between Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins. I don’t really think it’s single-worthy.
The album’s seventh track, “Ripcord”, is probably the first shitty song I’ve heard by Radiohead. It just sounds like a bunch of filler and has nothing going for it besides repetitive lyrics and boring instrumentation.
I’m not sure why, but the sometimes-slow-sometimes-fast guitar work on “Vegetable” reminds me of a precursor to Foo Fighters. I don’t know if anyone else would agree with that thought, but I also have heard it a couple other times on this album. Either way, I’m a fan of this slow-fast track.
The biggest difference between “Prove Yourself” here and on the Drill EP is that there is now less of a stark contrast between the soft and hard parts, making things a little more even keel — perhaps to the song’s degradation.
Even though it was the first track on the first EP, “I Can’t” doesn’t seem to have changed much in the two years since its first release. I suppose it sounds a little sharper here, but, then again, nothing on that first disc was very crisp.
If I were in charge, I definitely would’ve released the penultimate track, “Lurgee”, as a single. It’s a great, pseudo-psychadelic track that I could totally see myself just trancing out to.
With the constant cymbal grazing, the album’s closer “Blow Out” started off as something of a jazz lounge song. But then came the Radiohead-friendly chorus, followed by some distortion. Personally, I could’ve done without this song and would’ve preferred the album ended a track earlier.
I guess that’s what happens when you finally release a full-length album — you’re bound to have a few misses.