Review Summary: one word comes to mind; meh
I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who has listened to Radiohead and hasn’t liked them, unless they’re unenlightened biogas cur. Everyone has their favorite Radiohead album; whether it be the masterful and cataclysmic OK Computer, the trippy and unpredictable Kid A, or the plain weird, but enchanting Amnesiac.(which is mine) What seems to be no one’s favorite though is Pablo Honey, their un-inspired, pain-stakingly average debut album.
Considering how atmospheric and breath-taking Radiohead are later down the road, it is rather odd and somewhat funny to hear how conventional and boring Pablo Honey is. Back in the early nineties, with grunge being the obvious fore-front of music, Radiohead were really swept under the cover. It’s thankful that they did improve vastly, or they probably would not have been nearly as successful as they are. Pablo Honey features some somewhat decent guitar parts, and the instruments are all in line and play quite satisfactorily, but it’s a shame that that’s what is the highlights of the sound. When a band can only rely on their technical ability as instrument players, instead of shining with brilliant songwriting, they are setting themselves for mediocrity. But what’s even worse is that Pablo Honey doesn’t even have incredibly interesting sections to it. Most songs feature a very muddled guitar, which sometimes works, but gets to be a bit much over time. Thom Yorke’s voice is used very conventionally and tediously; He is more of just a regular rock singer, delivering his verses and choruses opposed to using his voice as another instrument or piece of the sound like later in their career.
I am bagging a lot on the album, so maybe I should point out some charms. There certainly are some rewarding and enjoyable qualities to the album. As underwhelming as most of these songs are, there is a twinge of fun and pretty songwriting to them. A part that is very nice is the breakdown of Creep, which results in a well played and soothing piano finale. As far as boring, predictable rock goes, Pablo Honey does introduce some interesting elements, even if they appear as completely phony and hollow. Also, some of these songs do break the meld of mediocrity and are great tunes. Anyone Can Play Guitar does have some compelling parts to it, with a good range of instruments being utilized. Blow Out does have some interesting staccato effect on the guitar to make it sound low-key and works better for it.
Although the album does have a bit of charm, and it isn’t half-bad if it’s compared to other bands of the same boring genre. But considering Radiohead completely trump this album later on, it really shows how young and inexperienced they are as musicians. What Radiohead succeeds in is their competent instrument playing and conventional style, but what they lack is anything else besides that. Luckily, Radiohead certainly improve themselves and show a much better display of music later on.