So the explosion of grunge music in the early nineties really did influence a wide audience. These people being not only music fans but several musicians themselves, and not only United States natives, either. Alternative smash hit Radiohead had taken an apparent liking to the genre back in 1993 when their debut Pablo Honey
was released to the world, blowing up and beginning a masterful chain reaction that never strayed off or really dissapointed at any point in its duration, still going strong. Today, when you hear the name 'Radiohead' you probably think OK Computer
and The Bends
as musical milestones and excellently crafted albums themselves. Everybody wants to hear 'Paranoid Android' or 'Street Spirit'. Raves ramble on and on about the suave and intelligent latter pieces of work as opposed to PH. Well we all know how underrated albums, the underdogs of the bunch usually are some of the best effort the band has ever done in their entire career. Debut albums usually have that great effort laced in its music. Media and press are the ones looking for that one single that can rocket a band to instant fame, and the album that produced that particular track is wrapped up in gold and labeled a masterpiece. Sadly this has occured amongst the Radiohead lineup. Pablo Honey was not released to amazing reviews, no ravings from critics, not any real positive coverage minus possibly the popularity of the single 'Creep'. Sound familiar? Sure, a casual or just passing Radiohead listener could possibly think 'Creep' wasn't even on Pablo Honey. Maybe The Bends or Kid A. 'Cause nobody likes PH, right? Ok, thats probably a bit of an overstatement. But critical reviews state that Radiohead are innovative, and good at concepts - you know, doing things not many people have heard. Making a unique sound every new album. Well, Pablo Honey was a great concept, meshing Grunge with an Alternative, melodic sound producing harmonic rock at its best. Its not something that you hear much anymore, is it (your own CD player doesn't count)? So, why not realize this greatness?
The mass of grunge music blowing a hole in the industry at the point in time when Radiohead entered the world obviously has a pretty huge effect on the mind of Thom Yorke. I suppose he was thinking his band could catch a big break if they hopped the Nirvana train and played it out with the rest of the grunge bands. Soon enough he realized that this fad wasn't one to stay - it was noisy, trashy, heavy and incomprehensible. Nobody wants to listen to growling and pounding and ripping 24/7, even the heaviest of Metal bands throw in a ballad or two here and there. So did Radiohead. Songs like 'Lurgee', 'Thinking About You', and 'Creep' balance out the rocking moments of Pablo Honey. So you won't be subjected to In Utero, you'll have a mixture of IU and probably...'The Bends'. This album doesn't completely break off from what your used to hearing by these guys, but it won't connect too well either. Thats because Radiohead was more into playing
songs in '93 rather than building them. There are no lengthy mechanical build-ups or experiments going on here. This is pure jamming in a garage, making your debut, meshing your influences and writing the best you can as a young'n.
Pop was not totally absent from Pablo Honey. You can think of this effort kind of like Nevermind,
poppy rockish music was a heavy factor weighing down upon Radiohead's minds. Listen to 'Ripcord' and you'll see. Most of the songs are pretty upbeat and fast, but not very hooky - which is probably why the record didn't quickly rise to fame. The singles are the only real examples of catchiness. Some songs, although short can seem pretty proggy at points, like a brief jam session resulted in the majority of Pablo Honey's tracklist. Songs like that may not appeal to you if you lack appreciation for a work that hasn't been outlined beforehand - it sounds like Radiohead wrote the lyrics as a preamble to the song then played what they thought sounded great. Nothing too genius here, no masterful works of art, just great songs. Something that you'll enjoy listening to and not prying to pieces attempting to uncover the secret of Thom Yorke's unmatched songwriting skills. This is what makes a good album - that you'll pick it up, listen to it and enjoy, and not have to force yourself to like the songs. Its a love or hate situation, theres no 'it grew on me'.
While Nirvana (I may be exhausting their example) were the band that you could dance to with their release of Nevermind, Radiohead were and still are the band that you listen
to. Another reason Pablo Honey breaks off from the latter works. Pablo Honey is the host of a slew of concert tracks, stuff that you'd actually enjoy jumping off the balcony onto the mosh pit to. Can't really do that if you've got 'Karma Police' in the background, can you? This is just further explaining how the pop-grunge of PH really makes the album what it is. It isn't hard to listen to. Its live music. I supposed if you don't hear these songs on stage you never really hear them. It's an amazing experience listening to 'Stop Whispering' or 'You' without headphones on, moving with the music alongside the others in the crowd with you.
It doesn't take much to enjoy Pablo Honey. Try not to delve into it or start listening with expectations that equal that of the musical genius of Amnesiac.
If anything, listen to 'Hail To The Theif' beforehand and see if you can spot the similarity between the two. HTTT is again more about playing songs than creating them. It wasn't made in a laboratory, it was made in a studio. Sessions and sessions made this album, and hopefully you have sessions and sessions listening to it.
Vocals/Guitar: Thom Yorke
Guitar: Johnny Greenwood
Guitar: Ed O'Brien
Bass: Colin Greenwood
Drums: Phillip James Selway