MUSIC REVIEW | Radiohead – Pablo Honey (1993)

I first became aware of Radiohead at the same time that I assume most people of my generation did, with the single Creep. It was an almost novelty hit, with its car crash guitar bangs, and seemed like it was attempting to ride on the coat tails of grunge that had been gilded by Nirvana and Pearl Jam a year or two earlier. Then, they seemingly disappeared, reappearing a few years later with OK Computer. By this stage, they appeared to me to be a collection of epic pretentions and self importance.

At that time, I was really starting to appreciate the simplicity and economy of punk rock, and was quick to dismiss anything that hinted toward pretension and self importance. These days, I might love punk rock more than ever, but I’ve also mellowed on what I hate, and do my best to revisit things I may have been a little too quick to write off at the time. Radiohead is a prime candidate for one of those revisits, so I’m starting where they did, with their debut, Pablo Honey.

Straight away, this album made me realise that I have been missing something all these years. You and How Dare You? Are both really strong guitar rockers that couldn’t be further from the pretentious, self important attitude I’ve imposed on this band for so long. And in between those songs is Creep. It’s still on regular radio rotation to this day, but hearing it in the context of Pablo Honey, it almost has a new life, a fresh sound that I hadn’t heard in it before.

The rest of the album follows the pretty standard formula for a guitar rock record of the day. Five or six rockers, then one or two songs of something a little slower, quieter and acoustic, then some more rockers to bring it home. It’s simple, but effective, and it really, really worked for me here.

Listening to Pablo Honey, and even liking it a lot, I can still see why they took a turn for something a little more ambitious. It’s straight forward guitar rock, written and performed way better than average. But it’s still straight forward guitar rock and is hardly breaking any new ground. Just a year or two after Pablo Honey, England would be overflowing with better than average guitar bands. Bands like Ash, Supergrass and Oasis. I’m a big fan of Ash and Supergrass, but I recognise they were never doing anything new or different.

Radiohead decided to go big, go different and go highbrow. I might not be a fan of where they headed, but I’m sure the millions of record sales, ticket sales and mammoth critical success make Thom Yorke and friends OK with the fact that one dude in Australia doesn’t get it.


2 thoughts on “MUSIC REVIEW | Radiohead – Pablo Honey (1993)

  1. I think Thom can now rest easy that he has finally pleased this reviewer. Crying himself to sleep since 1993. His big wet tears falling on Egyptian cotton pillow cases with outrageous thread counts. Rest easy Thom. Shhhh, rest easy…

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