Radiohead: A Complete Album Guide

Radiohead: A Complete Album Guide

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Radiohead: A Complete Album Guide news

In May, Radiohead returned in a big way, releasing a brilliant new LP, A Moon Shaped Pool, that ranks with their finest work. Here we survey the full album discography of contemporary rock’s most innovative band.

Must-Haves

OK Computer (1997)
A reputation-securing masterwork. Jonny Greenwood’s guitar wizardry made for sweeping space-rock epics, while Thom Yorke bemoaned techno-dehumanization and “yuppies networking.” The result: one of the Nineties’ best LPs.

Kid A (2000)
The controversial left turn that became the consensus pick: Goodbye, guitar fireworks and verse-chorus-verse structures; hello, drum-machine twitches, song-form sabotage and exquisite synth-craft. A new 21st-century rock language was born.

In Rainbows (2007)



Maybe Radiohead’s most adventurous LP, and their sexiest. The pay-what-you-will marketing strategy was game-changing, and the deliciously glitchy grooves and Yorke’s prettiest singing found the perfect space between bliss and oblivion.

Further Listening

The Bends (1995)
The first quantum leap in a career that’s been full of them, taking the band from Brit-rock also-rans to budding artistes. “Fake Plastic Trees” is a dystopian lighter-waver, while “My Iron Lung” pointed the way toward the icy grandeur of OK Computer.

Amnesiac (2001)
Culled from the Kid A sessions, their fifth album has a dizzying, polyglot vibe – from “Pyramid Song,” a stammering piano ballad full of disconcertingly gorgeous suicide imagery, to “Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors,” a sneakily funky, melody-free textural delight. Amnesiac served notice that there’d be no retreat from the outré impulses of Kid A.

Hail to the Thief (2003)
Radiohead’s evergreen grimness coursed with special urgency on an album that arrived just three months after U.S. and British forces invaded Iraq. That nightmare scenario was evoked in tracks like “2+2=5” and “There There,” where the band channeled its anger into the most unabashed guitar assaults it had delivered in more than half a decade.

A Moon Shaped Pool (2016)

In time, their latest may reach classic status too. Recorded after the dissolution of Yorke’s marriage, MSP is sublimely spectral – by turns enigmatic (“Daydreaming”), somber (“Desert Island Disk”) and quietly furious (“Ful Stop”).

Going Deeper

Pablo Honey (1993)
If this was all they’d ever done, they’d be a platinum-plated Nineties relic, synonymous only with the killer misanthrope kitsch of “Creep.” The rest is bad, often embarrassingly so: future greats not quite getting it together yet.

I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings (2001)
Radiohead could’ve existed solely as a studio-science geniuses – a Steely Dan for our times. But they’ve always been a live colossus. Recorded while touring to support Kid A and Amnesiac, this concert LP is explosively raw: The twisty, insular “Idioteque” lashes out, and on “Like Spinning Plates,” Yorke holds an arena enrapt with just his beautifully chilling voice.

The King of Limbs (2011)

Set the mood to dirge. Set the vocals to moan. Set the beats to skjfdklsjdljsfkppft. Radiohead pushed toward their gloomiest recesses here and largely left out their core pop gravitas. Still, there are entrancingly off-kilter flashes (“Bloom,” “Lotus Flower,” “Morning Mr. Magpie”) scattered throughout.

From The Archives Issue 1264: July 1, 2016

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