Radiohead became eligible for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2017 and was nominated in 2018 before making the cut this year. The band’s inclusion so quickly was a no-brainer given their commercial and critical success, paired with the boundaries they’ve pushed in the industry.
In addition to their wide-ranging sonic experimentation, their 2007 album In Rainbows was the first by a big-name act to be offered under a “pay whatever you want” model (I’m ashamed to admit I paid nothing). That strategy was an early forerunner of the streaming age we’re living in now.
If ever a band was made for year-end critics lists, it’s Radiohead. They’ve been releasing albums full of bleeps and bloops to high praise for more than a decade now.
I really loved the Radiohead of The Bends and OK Computer but their appeal pretty much ended for me there (though parts of In Rainbows were listenable). After a five year hiatus, the band released A Moon Shaped Pool last year to (shocked) critical acclaim. It landed at #7 on the Village Voice Pazz & Jop albums poll.
I could see loving or hating this song. In fact, I could see loving this song and hating this song depending on when you were hearing it.
It certainly has a vibe — a vibe that might make it more effective if paired with visuals. In a very dramatic and disturbing movie scene, for example.
Or if you’re 16, misunderstood, angry at life — I could see playing this through headphones while lying on the floor of your bedroom in the dark.
Best Albums of the 90s – #15
The Bends – Radiohead (1995)
The more obvious choice of a Radiohead record on a list of the best 90s albums would probably be 1997’s OK Computer. That album is certainly the more culturally significant and critically praised, showing up high on many lists of the best albums ever, regardless of decade.
Indeed, I considered placing both OK Computer and The Bends on my list, but Radiohead has so annoyed me since those two releases that I couldn’t stomach the idea of giving them two slots out of twenty.
I have a love/hate relationship with Radiohead.
They are an iffy selection for this week’s theme because I do treasure some of their work — specifically, everything on The Bends and about three quarters of OK Computer. If we’re talking about that stuff, believe the hype.
But following OK Computer, Radiohead either decided to perpetrate some sort of elaborate hoax on music critics, or they got so caught up in their own good press that their heads became permanently lodged inside their asses.
I’m an album person, to a fault. Sometimes I’ll buy a whole album because I like one or two songs and allow it to occupy precious space in my collection as essentially a bloated CD single. Other times I won’t buy a CD despite loving a song or two because I want to avoid the above scenario.
What I haven’t done, to this point, is just buy the songs I like on iTunes. The primary reason for this is that I do almost all of my music listening in the car and I don’t have an effective way to play MP3s on that stereo system. I suppose I could download songs and burn them to mix CDs but that seems like more trouble than its worth (it isn’t, I know, but it seems that way).
Speaking of ugly singers…
The freakishly pale and impish Thom Yorke is another good example of the double standard for male and female artists. And a lot of women are actually attracted to this guy. It’s that “ugly sexy” thing, I guess.
But that takes nothing away from this song, which is another absolute stunner from The Bends. This was the first Radiohead song that really struck me (apart from ‘Creep,’ I suppose, which I didn’t even know was their song for the longest time). I heard it for the first time live when they were opening for R.E.M. It was right before they became huge and I didn’t pay much attention to their set even though much of the crowd was going nuts over them.