It's that old story: unknown British band gets an American hit single, gets huge off the back of that one song, and the success ends up destroying them. Fortunately, Oxford quintet Radiohead were the exception that proves the rule. Radiohead's albatross was "Creep"--a titanic anthem to paranoia, self-hatred and self-obsession, utterly huge in every way. Pablo Honey, though, is much more than filler. "Anyone Can Play Guitar" is certainly as good as "Creep"; swathed in walls of feedback, it races blindly into a apocalyptic chorus, frontman Thom Yorke singing "As the world turns and as London burns, I'll be standing on the beach with my guitar." Certainly, indie-rock seldom got better than this, and elsewhere "Vegetable" and "Prove Yourself" pulled similar pyrotechnical tricks. Pablo Honey was later superseded by first The Bends, and later OK Computer, but it's certainly much more than a curious debut. --Louis Pattison
Oxfordshire's best-known musical export have been voicing the angst of an inarticulate generation for the last fifteen years, kicking off with Pablo Honey, their exploration of suburban, adolescent self-awareness. Released when the boys still glistened with the sheen of an expensive private education and set against the more mature redneck, white bread, blue-collar roar of Nirvana, Radiohead's intelligent, delicate take on the loud/soft, quick/slow language of grunge appeared spineless and effete until Creep was released and set the record straight.
Massively backed by UK 'indie' radio, the single became a hit in the slacker student community, and simultaneously established the band as serious musicians, with interesting points to make and hefty musical skills with which to drive them home.
The band's apparent overnight success came after years of dedication (even keeping in touch while away at various universities) and endless free time spent in rehearsal. They'd toughened up and tightened their sound on the road before setting out to make the album, and had grown the confidence to expand ideas across lengthy instrumental breaks that other new kids in the studio might fear to try.
It all resulted in a stunning blend that combined the best aspects of prog rock (challenging lyrics, deft chord changes, novelty time signatures and so forth) with the plaintiveness of bedsit singer song-writing and the sound of expensive equipment thrashed at by experts. Though later albums were better received, this remains one of rock's most impressive debuts. --Al Spicer
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