Radiohead are one of the most essential bands of the last 25 years. They have steered the alternative rock genre to what it is today, and popularized experimental music in the mainstream. Here are their nine studio albums ranked from worst to best.
9. Pablo Honey (1993)
Apart from the international hit “Creep,” with is a largely forgettable debut. It’s a good sign of things to come, but the band was still developing in terms of their sound and songwriting here.
Essential Tracks: “Creep”
8. The King of Limbs (2011)
Their shortest album is also their thinnest in terms of depth. It’s not a bad album per say, but after a four year gap between albums, people expected more. The lack of fulfillment their is still felt on this record.
Essential Tracks: “Lotus Flower,” “Codex”
7. Amnesiac (2001)
Amnesiac is far and away the band’s least accessible albums. Made up mostly of leftover cuts from Kid A, the album is very strange, and often impenetrable But it’s a rewarding listen when given a real chance.
Essential Tracks: “Pyramid Song,” “Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors,” “Knives Out”
6. Hail to the Thief (2003)
After the avant garde approach of Kid A, and Amnesiac, Radiohead reigned themselves in a little bit, and tried a bit of electronic-infused rock rather than the other way around. The result is an immensely enjoyable, thematically heavy album.
Essential Tracks: “2 + 2 = 5,” “Sit Down, Stand Up,”There, There”
5. A Moon Shaped Pool (2016)
Radiohead’s latest record is also their most piercing. With the incorporation of orchestral elements this time around, the record explores themes of loss, abandonment, and love. Singer Thom Yorke’s partner of over two decades, Rachel Owen, passed away late last year, and the pain is definitely felt of this understated, but beautiful album.
Essential Tracks: “Burn the Witch,” “Daydreaming,” “True Love Waits”
4. In Rainbows (2007)
This is where things get tricky. When a band has released several essentially perfect albums, how do you go about finding which are better than others? Very carefully. In Rainbows was a pay-what-you-want release, which shook the music industry. It doesn’t do a whole lot new or different, but it makes up for a lack of innovation by being outright gorgeous. The album drips with feeling and is an essential component of Radiohead’s discography.
Essential Tracks: “15 Step,” “Nude,” “Weird Fishes/ Arpeggi,” “Videotape”
3. Kid A (2000)
This is the record that had everyone scratching their heads. It was a huge departure from the band’s rock roots, into an avant garde, electronic soundscape. Vocal effects abound, much of the lyrics are nonsense, used for their sonic value rather than their actual meaning, and the instrumentation is often eerily distorted. Alternative music was never the same.
Essential Tracks: “Everything in its Right Place,” “The National Anthem,” “How to Disappear Completely,” “Idioteque”
2. The Bends (1995)
The Bends is Brit Rocks shining moment. The band’s second album perfectly expanded upon the band’s debut into something that was notably bigger than itself. The Bends is deeply layered, both in its sound and themes, abrasive, lovely, gloomy, ethereal, and iconic.
Essential Tracks: “High and Dry,” “Fake Plastic Trees,” “(Nice Dream),” “Just”
1. OK Computer (1997)
Albums don’t get much better than this. OK Computer took a sharp turn away from the pop rock sound that was popular and essentially set the stage for the next generation of alternative. Each facet is expertly crafted, and perfectly indicative of the angst and dejected attitudes that defined the turn of the century. It’s an undoubtedly iconic piece of work that solidifies Radiohead’s place as one of the most important groups of recent times.
Essential Tracks: “Paranoid Android,” “Let Down,” “Karma Police,” “No Surprises”