Review Summary: Pablo Honey is definitely the band's weakest effort, marked by immaturity and uncertainty, yet it is not without its moments.
The debut LP from Radiohead will always be considered the band's weakest effort, yet it is not without its moments. On Pablo Honey, you can hear a young and promising alternative band trying to find its form. Emerging in the midst of the grunge era, this album can be viewed as a mixed bag. There are some real rockers and some real heartwarming, soft tunes. However, this album reveals a sense of uncertainty among the band's members. Would Radiohead be yet another Brit Pop "one-hit-wonder" or another Nirvana-esque band" Luckily, the answer would be neither, but Pablo Honey still carries an immature sound for one of the most progressive and distinctive bands of all time.
Most Radiohead fans will cringe at the mention of Pablo Honey because, obviously, it holds the overplayed and sometimes despised "Creep", the band's breakout radio hit that had critics screaming "one-hit-wonder." While "Creep" is a decent song, it is a poor representation of the incredible band Radiohead would become, and is certainly not the album's best moment. As a whole, Pablo Honey is vulnerable and emotional. While the songwriting is not up to par with the band's future work, Thom Yorke's passion still manages to bleed through the somewhat bland instrumentation and superficial lyricism. "Prove Yourself" is an aggressive and enjoyable song that is over in the blink of an eye, but manages to grab the listener with its sheer simplicity. "I Can't" brings plenty of sentiment despite boring progression. "Vegetable" shows a unique and darker side of Yorke as he builds tension with his perfected vocals. The opening track, "You", gives the listener a taste of the amazing guitar work of Jonny Greenwood that would absolutely shine on "The Bends". If this track doesn't suggest the beginning of one of the alternative scene's greatest guitarists then I don't know what does. "Thinking About You" is a pretty little tune that doesn't really go anywhere particularly interesting but is lovable nonetheless. Finally, "Blow Out" is the album's most ambitious song, signaling the transition to the true Radiohead we all know and love. Thus, there are some good moments on Pablo Honey, but nothing that I would ever consider great. I never was able to enjoy "How Do You"" or "Stop Whispering". While I would agree that Pablo Honey is the "worst" Radiohead album, it is certainly a good reflection on the band that their weakest LP is really not bad at all.
If you are a die-hard Radiohead fan, then Pablo Honey should at least be part of your collection. I rarely find myself revisiting it because it doesn't have that "wow" factor that comes to mind when someone brings up Radiohead. Pablo Honey is a flawed album from a band in a purely developmental stage. You could almost assume they didn't know who are what they wanted to be, even though Thom Yorke clearly says at one point on the album, "I wanna be Jim Morrison." Personally, I'm glad things didn't turn out that way. Pablo Honey just doesn't interest me all that much, however it is not a bad album. Since Radiohead is my favorite band, I have to give it some respect.