Radiohead have come a long way since their debut single ‘Creep’. In fact, it’s 24 years this week since Thom Yorke and the gang burst into public consciousness, asking what the hell they were doing there. To celebrate the anniversary, we got our heads together to answer a question. What exactly it is that makes Radiohead “so fucking special”? And here’s the result. With love from inthemiddle, these are our top 10 classic hits and hidden gems from everyone’s favourite weirdos…
10. Everything In Its Right Place
The opening track of Radiohead’s fourth studio album Kid A asserts why the album is so revered by fans and critics alike. ‘Everything In Its Right Place’ embodies the shift from guitar group to studio sensei, with electronic shifts and trance music influence. That, and we just really like weird stuff.
9. There, There
Thom Yorke’s murmur is lost in this shrubbery of musical beauty so that we feel as lost in the dark as Radiohead do. A song that is cry out to be heard detailing the complexities of love, life and the shittness of things not working out, with lyrics like ‘just ‘cause you feel it / doesn’t mean it’s there’ and ‘we are accidents / accidents waiting to happen’, you can’t help but be stunned to silence by the song’s hypnotising vulnerability.
8.Present Tense [Johnny, Thom & a CR78]
Tantalising and bewitching, the song from 2016’s A Moon Shaped Pool show that Radiohead are like the greatest of wines: they only get better with age. In this stunning live version, the band’s talents as musicians are brought to the forefront, and the song is provided with a new raw energy that elevates the song to new dimensions.
It’s utterly captivating, dominated by hypnotic piano and Yorke’s forlorn musings. Layered with lush strings and soaked in reverb, ‘Daydreaming’ is everything we love about Radiohead’s 2016 comeback album, A Moon Shaped Pool.
Picture the scene. You’re watching Daniel Craig saunter through the latest Bond movie, muttering “think of the money” and trying not to hang himself. Roll credits. Instead of Sam Smith whinging, it’s only BLOODY RADIOHEAD. That’s right, the producers chickened out at the last minute for a safer bet. Still, now we get all the goodness without having to watch Spectre…
5. Karma Police
Radiohead lure us into a false sense of security by providing us with what initially seems like a somewhat optimistic guitar line only to juxtapose this with lyrics of ‘for a minute there / I lost myself’. A treasure that is one of the many gems on Ok Computer, it is a musical concoction that masks an underlying eeriness.
4. Fake Plastic Trees
A hauntingly heartbreaking whisper that is guaranteed to make even the toughest of people cry, Thom York’s repeated murmurs of ‘it wears me out’ over a vulnerable guitar line are a cry out into the void. In a song that expresses the feelings of inadequacy in a world that only feels plastic, ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ demonstrates what Radiohead do best: express those feelings of heartbreak that only tears normally capture.
3. Reckoner [Live From The Basement]
‘Reckoner’ is a snippet from In Rainbows, the masterpiece that fans were told to “pay what they felt” for. This performance, a taster of Radiohead’s live album From The Basement, brings to life the song’s rhythmic drive, minimal guitar work and haunting vocals.
Sparked by a competition for most chords in a song, ‘Just’ is a guitar-heavy eargasm that blasts the inner rage of ‘Creep’ out at the world. Filled with an angst that characterises The Bends, big choruses and Johnny’s face melting solos cement this as a classic.
1. Paranoid Android
A song that feels part religious experience, part acid trip, ‘Paranoid Android’ takes us through some of the darkest places of Radiohead’s mind. It is hypnotic. It is cryptic. It is filled with a paranoia that is aware of its own madness. In creating a six and a half minute masterpiece with four distinct sections that perfectly flow into one another, Radiohead sealed their status of a band that is beyond human. It was a risk: to say that it stands out on Ok Computer as something beyond experimental is an understatement, but it was a risk that paid off. And how it did.
Radiohead are the paranoid android, churning out masterpiece after masterpiece, only to leave all us mere mortals stunned in their path. And, who doesn’t love a good animated music video every now and then?
And one not so surprsing bonus track… Creep
Of course, we couldn’t leave out the reason we’re here. Although it’s a track the band barely play live, and whose guitar part is actually the sound of Johnny trying to wreck a song he hated, ‘Creep’ is where it all started. It set the tone for two decades of introspection and experimentation. And it makes a great track to drunkenly end Freshers on…
Sam Corcoran and Juliette Rowsell