Review Summary: Destiny, protect me from the world
It’s weird to think a band like Radiohead started off making Grunge. Ever the sonic experimenters, they changed the face of alt rock in the late 90s with their seminal third album ‘OK Computer’ and continued to release acclaimed and game changing albums with the avant garde electronic fuelled ‘Kid A’ and the art rock powerhouse ‘In Rainbows’, along with revolutionising the pay-what-you-want system. Yet their origins are much more humble than the mysterious otherworldly image they hold. Five guys from Oxfordshire making angsty indie rock.
Pablo Honey is often seen as an embarrassment to the band and a weak debut compared to the mastery that would come to define them later in the decade. It certainly isn’t representative of their sound. Mopey grunge and indie pop with the occasional glimmer of brash experimentation. I don’t fault the band for hating this record. They desperately tried to escape the shadow of their massive debut single ‘Creep’ and the miserable slacker image they’d been labelled with. It was all very un-Radiohead like, the highlight of the era being the group’s now infamous performance of ‘Anyone Can Play Guitar’ on the MTV beach house which ended with Thom, decked out with long blonde hair, screeching like a banshee into the camera, red faced and embarrassed before diving head first into the pool, nearly dying in the process. It’s something best left forgotten. But what about the music itself?
Pablo Honey, musically, isn’t anything mind blowing. Bar a few noticeable instances of foreshadowing their later sound, it’s an album that sticks to its guns. If you love Creep, you’ll love this. Blaring punkish guitar riffs backed with plodding bass and set to the era’s typical miserable lyrical stylings. It’s a humble record, not too ambition and not drowned in its own self importance. It’s a solid collection of decent alt rock that doesn’t require the type of “DEEP THINKING” that OKC and Kid A demand. It’s still a relic of its era, tracks like ‘Vegetable’ and ‘Anyone Can Play Guitar’ being so rooted in the early 90s sound, listening to them today is like opening a time capsule.
There’s a few timeless gems here and there. ‘Creep’ of course is still the annoyingly catchy and emotional juggernaut it’s always been, ‘Thinking About You’ is a lovely little slice of folk pop, ‘Prove Yourself’ is self loathing wrapped into a catchy indie rock song and the swirling chaos of the closer ‘Blow Out’ hints at the greatness to come. Still there’s some clunkers. The punky ‘How Do You?’ barely makes a dent in its brief runtime and songs like ‘Lurgee’ and ‘Ripcord’ are painfully forgettable. Still, what’s here certainly isn’t bad. While it in no way holds a candle to any of their later work (Bar King Of Limbs, which it completely eviscerates), it’s still a nice batch of indie rock/grunge tracks. Nothing more and nothing less.
Thinking About You
Anyone Can Play Guitar