This week in our ‘Blast From The Past’ series we’re looking at one of the most iconic UK bands of the last few decades. From ‘Pablo Honey’ To ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’, Radiohead have given us some of the most interesting, musically diverse, and altogether beautiful songs in the history of popular music.
1992’s ‘Creep’ is probably Radiohead’s most well-known song, and is definitely the most popular track amongst non-Radiohead fans. The moody ‘outsiders anthem’ remains the band’s most commercially successful track to date, and is arguably the reason that Radiohead is a household name at all. Despite its popularity, Radiohead has always viewed the song as something of an albatross around their necks, and have tried to distance themselves from it for the best part of 30 years – something that has often angered audiences.
One of the most notable songs from Radiohead’s incredible 1997 record ‘OK Computer’, ‘Karma Police’ remains a firm fan favorite to this day. The track’s title alludes to an in-joke between band members, who would often threaten to call the ‘Karma Police’ if one of them had done something bad. The song’s compelling music video helped director Jonathan Glazer win a number of awards in 1997. Glazer had previously pitched the idea to Marilyn Manson, who is reported to have completely disliked it.
Another stand out track from ‘OK Computer’, ‘Paranoid Android’ is one of Radiohead’s most ambitious (and now iconic) pieces of work. Upon its release, the track peaked at number three in the UK Singles chart, making it Radiohead’s most commercially successful release in their native country. The song is something of a homage to the popular Beatles track ‘Happiness Is a Warm Gun’, and was created with the same through-composed structure. Thom Yorke once said that ‘Paranoid Android’ was “Basically an excuse to weld loads of half-finished songs together, Abbey Road-style. It’s Radiohead, pissed and having a party.”
Based on Paul Lansky’s experimental computer piece ‘Mild Und Leise’, ‘Idioteque’ is the crown jewel of Radiohead’s electronic works. The song features on the band’s brilliant 2000 record ‘Kid A’, and currently sits at number eight on Pitchfork’s ‘Top 500 Song of the 2000s’ list. Radiohead alienated a large portion of their fan base when they decided to distance themselves from guitar-based rock music, but tracks such as ‘Idioteque’ made it all worthwhile – if not just to see Thom Yorke dancing like a madman during live performances of the song.
From the grungy angst-driven anthems of their early records to the cold electronic landscapes of their transitional period, Radiohead has always been a band that kept their fans and indeed themselves on their toes. 2007’s ‘In Rainbows’ was different – in the sense that it was perhaps the first time that Radiohead had landed on a level surface. It felt like a band who had finally become comfortable in their own skin.
Without sounding like too much of a hippy, there is a definite feeling of peace to ‘In Rainbows’, and that feeling is woven into every note of ‘Reckoner’. The song features some brilliant moments of individual musicianship. There are complex drum patterns, biting guitar melodies, haunting vocals, and incredibly expressive string arrangements. Yet perhaps most importantly, it still feels like a live band. It feels spontaneous and exciting and genuine. Very few bands’s are as good as Radiohead, and very few Radiohead songs are as good as ‘Reckoner’.