Radiohead is one of the most influential bands of all time. Coldplay and Machine Gun Kelly have both stated that the English natives are one of their main musical inspirations. Even The National and Muse have inklings of Thom Yorke in their music, even though neither has blatantly spoken about Radiohead’s style being a factor in their artistry.
The common thread continues to be artists expressing love for Radiohead immediately following the release of the legendary Kid A. Certainly after 2001, Radiohead really started to hit their stride creatively.
However, most causal fans (and maybe a few die-hards too) forget about the album that started it all back in 1993: Pablo Honey. Commonly referred to as Radiohead’s most “normal” record, this 90s alternative classic was an introduction to one of the most consistently strong musical runs in recent memory.
Oddly enough, even diehard fans must admit that “Creep” is their most adhesive and memorable track to date. Yorke spoke for so many men who lacked the self-confidence to express their love for the woman of their dreams. The ridiculous notion that the male population must act “manly” and not show emotion is something that Yorke felt the need to touch on.
The track just felt timely, and Yorke even voiced his opinion on the sensitivity that a man must possess, versus what the world felt with regards to gender norms. The song itself has aged well, given the fact tat we still deal with the same concerns in our current social climate. It’s just way too difficult to not sing along to rousing lyrics like, “I wish I was special/but I’m a creep.”
The rest of the album encompassed a wide margin of topics that incorporated the idea of finding one’s worth in this world.
It’s crazy to think how much backlash Pablo Honey has received from fans, mainly because a lot of listeners think that Radiohead’s debut album was overly-simplistic compared to their works after this release. I could maybe see people knocking it if the project had come out present day, but as a introduction album, Yorke creates an alluring tracklist that stays grounded, and never feels overly-ambitious.
As much as critics despised the third song, “How Do You?,” to me, it actually foreshadowed what was to come in the very decorative and experimental side of Yorke later on in his career. Sure, the grunge side of it kind of feels out of place with regards to the album’s message, but Yorke has always had that free-flowing stream of conscience on records.
The single “Stop Whispering” is a perfect representation of Radiohead being way ahead of its time. During that period, self-expression was something that people rarely showed. Yorke had the audacity to take that risk in his music, and “Stop Whispering” was the catchy rock ballad that the world needed in the early 90s.
“Thinking About You” follows a theme of tough break-ups that’s been bashed into people’s heads for years now in the music industry. The lyrics are subtle enough to really become engulfed by this tale of love and loss. It’s an underrated acoustic track that Yorke rarely explores in his most recent discography.
Meanwhile, Yorke also touches on what’s important to his life, especially on the rock-based second single, “Anyone Can Play Guitar.” He sings, “and if the world does turn, and London does burn/I’ll be standing on the beach with a guitar.” It’s selfish, but true for a lot of people who may cherish certain possessions that have changed their life. Yorke also feels like his guitar is one of the few ways he can use self-expression.
Pablo Honey initiated Radiohead’s propensity for connecting a central theme with other little theories about life. “I Can’t” and “Lurgee” are two instances where Yorke delves into self-esteem and how that effects life’s general desires, specifically love and self-awareness.
The English natives cemented themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the alternative landscape. Even in the 90s, there was saturation within the industry, and Radiohead was one of many bands trying to make a lasting impression.
Diehard fans will always be stubborn with their opinions. They will always try to persuade people not listen to Pablo Honey because it’s not as “intelligent” as their other projects. Sure, the production may be less diverse on their debut effort, but the record was just as intriguing as any other they’ve put out. Yorke showed he had potential, and he started at the most basic level of post-grunge rock, then gave us a preview of an illustrious career that would ensue for the next 20 years.