Three Radiohead Albums That Have Stunned The Music World
It is the year 2017. Music and audience preference is changing at a rate almost too rapid to comprehend. The skip button, sometimes all too enticing, allows us to skim through sounds at our own pace. These days, musicians must garner the listener’s attention almost instantaneously or their music will fade into oblivion. This is can be a daunting challenge. Especially living in an instant gratification driven society. Not many of us have time to simply relax and listen to a full album or even a few songs. Therefore, an artist must get in, attract the listener, and get out.
Radiohead is one “rock” band that has figured out how to put out musically amazing albums, maintain their integrity as artists, and do so with millions of adoring fans. Radiohead is an English band from Oxfordshire. All five members met at an all-boys school in their hometown. They wasted no time, and released their first debut EP The Drill and single Creep in 1992. Since their inception, Radiohead has released nine studio albums and have been together and performing for over 30 years. Incredibly, all of the original members have remained in the band for their entire career. This is highly unheard of in the music industry. Egos, creative direction, or personal issues tend to be culprits for breaking up bands or causing multiple member changes. Staying together for that long shows commitment and loyalty and their growth together is evident in their music.
The band is generally classified as an ‘alternative rock’ band, starting off with albums like Pablo Honey and The Bends, but over the years, they have evolved and transformed their sound into something completely unique and innovative. It is hard to really clump Radiohead into a certain genre. This is what makes them so hip and interesting. The singer, Thom Yorke, translates whatever comes to his head to instruments and that becomes the sound for the new album. Their music also stands out because it is universal. Musicians and bands in genres from pop and rock, to jazz, blue grass, and hip-hop have covered Radiohead’s tunes and sight them as a musical influence. They remain relevant to current trends, without “selling out” or jeopardizing their original intent for the band.
Although every Radiohead album is worth listening to, here are three albums that stand out and caught the attention of the music industry and turned it on its head.
Following their immensely successful previous two albums, and the 90’s teenage angst anthem Creep, Radiohead seemed to be heading in a totally different direction. Their previous album The Bends, was in line with the popular bands of the area and times like Oasis. Their third album, OK Computer, was something different entirely. The songs did not have a concise structure, or even a repeating chorus. They began incorporating more electronic instruments and now there was hazy doubt regarding their genre. However, they eased listeners into their new direction with acoustic, ‘pop’ type songs like Karma Police, Let Down, and Exit Music (For A Film). But, with the smash hit Paranoid Android we get a small glimpse at what is going on in Thom’s head. The first unique attempt by the band has been described as “A DIY electronica album made with guitars. “OK Computer bridges the touchy-feely/block-rockin’ divide of ’90s pop with urgency.” For me, Climbing Up The Walls was the song off this album that made me realize these guys were true masters of their craft. The song had a catchy acoustic riff, distorted and disruptive vocals, and unique electronic and orchestral parts that I have never heard before. They weren’t afraid to add nail-biting dissonance. It just worked. The lyrics were abundantly more abstract than their previous albums. York recants personal stories in tunes like Airbag and Paranoid Android and also begins jabs at mainstream society and politics. The lyrics were different but meaningful, which sparked mass interest.
Not only did the band introduce a new sound to the world of music, the critics and public loved it. It was hailed as a “landmark album,” was nominated for the best rock album of the year, and appears on many top and influential album lists. Twenty years later, and OK Computer is still relevant and regarded as a groundbreaking album.
If you were not already a fan of Radiohead, the album that followed the acclaimed OK Computer sounded nothing like them. In fact, it sounded like nothing you have heard before period. This was a complete immersion into the abstract and electronic world. As the band released the album, they announced that they were “starting from scratch, goodbye guitars, hello atmospheric synths.” If it was a challenge to describe their genre before, good luck doing it after this album. “I find it difficult to think of the path we’ve chosen as ‘rock music’.”- Thom Yorke
The opening track Everything In Its Right Place opens with a powerful piano/synth riff and foreshadows the album’s heavy use of electronic samples. Next, the title track was a grooving electronic sample with Yorke’s voice completely distorted. Listening to the album, you get a picture of an alien abduction, with all of the ambient sounds and weird vocals/lyrics.
Thus, Radiohead puts out another genre busting master piece and once again stuns the music world. “Kid A is not only Radiohead’s bravest album, but one of the best ones as well.”
In Rainbows is Radiohead’s seventh studio album, released in 2007. The band had come a long way since the previous two albums mentioned and made huge impacts and statements in the music world. This album one two Grammy awards and was placed in Rolling Stones’s 500 greatest albums of all time list. Also, the band made history and a few enemies when they implemented a “pay-what-you-want plan for their fans. The albums sold 300 copies, so obviously the plan was successful.
The album features many great hits, from the opening odd-meter tune, the powerful, unrelenting Bodysnatchers, to the “love song of sorts” House Of Cards.” Something that started to stand out, was that Yorke began using his voice as an extended instrument. It sounded like a violin, synth, and percussion instrument were being released from his mouth. This was very innovative and was a defining element to their sound.
The band had once again reached a new point in their career and showed no signs of wavering or backing down. They continue to push forward and are still releasing chart-topping albums 30 years after their inception!