on April 26, 2004
I'm probably one of the most unorthodox Radiohead fans. Instead of starting with "OK Computer" as my first Radiohead album, I started with "Kid A". At first I didn't like it too much, but after listening to it over and over, it began to grow on me and I eventually loved Radiohead. So I proceeded to buy OKC and "The Bends", which I really enjoyed. Then "Amnesiac" came out, so I bought that and I thought it was okay, but not up to par with "Kid A". Then, I bought the live EP, which held me over until the next album "Hail To The Thief", which is also a good album (not great, though). So that brings me to this album. This was the last Radiohead album I bought, and I have to say, it's not that bad considering all of the bad reviews I've read of it. So anyway...on to the album.
First off, you can definitely tell it was made during the late grunge era, since most of the songs are loud and self indulgent. However, the way that Radiohead performs these songs makes them a whole lot better. After this album and before The Bends, Radiohead was known as the Creep Band, but Creep isn't the only good song on here. In fact, all of the songs on here are pretty darn good if you don't start into comparisons with their other albums. My personal favorites are "Stop Whispering" and "Thinking About You" because they're the most emotional songs. But the rest of them are also really good, especially "You", "Anyone Can Play Guitar", "Vegetable", and "Blow Out". The only song I don't really like is "Ripcord" but it's still okay. Also, I'm not surprised that "Prove Yourself" is no longer played by the band, because you can imagine how many teens would be singing the lines "I'm better off dead" at their concerts, turning it into a cheesy suicide song when it's a serious song.
Overall, if you're a new Radiohead fan, you should probably start here, or with The Bends, or with OK Computer, in order to be introduced to their style. Then, you should purchase "Kid A", "Amnesiac", and "Hail To The Thief", since they're much less guitar driven and more experimental and progressive.
on November 21, 2001
I'm one of those who think that although Pablo Honey is a decent album in its own right, it is decidely inferior to Radiohead's other albums. That having been said, I would definitely recommend Pablo Honey to anyone who already enjoys Radiohead's music because it does give you a good sense of how the band started out and how far they've come since then. I'll just hit a few highlights of the album:
1. Although "Creep" was overplayed into the ground back in '93 and I hated it back then, I have to admit now that it's actually a great tune, with Jonny's wonderfully abrasive guitar slashing merry hell out of the chorus (come to think of it, Jonny's wonderfully abrasive guitar slashes merry hell out of several Radiohead songs!).
2. "Anyone Can Play Guitar"! Yeah, the lyrics are kinda cheesy, but this song rocks with monstrous feedback, blirps, and squiggles courtesy of Messrs. Greenwood and O'Brien. One of the more creative tracks on the album.
3. "Ripcord"- this song just rocks. Starts out with a catchy, pretty little riff, then degenerates into disonance in the chorus that still manages to be, well, catchy.
4. "Blow Out"- this is easily the most mature offering on Pablo Honey, and my favorite track. Cool, semi-jazzy, and then exploding into spaced-out mania at the end. Lyrically and musically, this one has the classic amazing Radiohead vibe to it more than any other song on the album. It's no surprise then, that this is reported to be Jonny Greenwood's favorite Pablo Honey track as well.
The other tracks are not bad, but there are no real standouts among them; they're melodic but also slightly bland. All in all, Pablo Honey does have its moments of the sheer brillance that typifies all of Radiohead's subsequent albums, but it lacks cohesion and consistency. I get the feeling that the band was still struggling to find itself. It's an interesting listen and a worthy purchase, but moreso for someone already interested in Radiohead's music rather than someone looking to check them out for the first time.
on November 23, 2000
I bought this Album after I had bought the Bends, but before OK COMPUTER cam out. At first, other than Creep, I was hesitiant to listen to the album; THE BENDS seemed to have possessed me to an extent where I was frightened by giving it a listen I would damage Radiohead's credibility in my mind. However, that was to change. I was writing a piece of English work very late one night in 1996 (about 3-4am morning) and I had brought THE BENDS and PABLO HONEY down with me to play. I had listened twice through THE BENDS, and I thought I might as well give it a go, it was so late I wouldn't remember it too much if it was bad. But as the LP played I found myself just connecting with some of the songs. The next day I re-played the album, only to appreciate more of them than before. I was hooked. The sheer energy and vigor displayed along with hints of tragedy immpressed me. It now stands as one of the more important elements of my collection and what it lacks in experimentation it has in power. Just by listening it you can tell (maybe only in retrospect) that there was more to come. Blow Out is the perfect ending and just as good a piece as Street Spirit. Creep is by no means the best piece, though sticks out just for being 'that song'. It has also come to mean more to me than a record as well, it is part of my youth.
on August 19, 2003
Even with the bravely experimental Kid A and Amnesiac, Pablo Honey remains Radiohead's most controversial album and the cause of the majority of arguments about the band. The essential detail to remember is that it's the start of an ever developing and maturing vocal talent by Thom Yorke and, if for that reason alone, it's a fascinating and curious listen. But for those of you that are wondering, the argument that arises over this album is a simple one: is it an irreplaceable element of the genius that is the Radiohead musical canon, or a rather shoddy and overblown first attempt at success and recognition?
The truth can be found somwhere in between.
What will strike you first when you begin listening to Pablo Honey is how incredibly confident lead singer Thom Yorke sounds, almost to the point of being cocky. These were the days when he actually wanted to be a famous rock star, remember, perhaps more that anything and, yes, these were the silly peroxide blond days. A telltale sign of the bands' attitude towards their music is evident during the 1994 London Astoria concert (available on video), where Yorke amusingly introduces some of the Pablo Honey tracks as "oldies" and apologises for first appearances of soon-to-be greats "My Iron Lung" and "Street Spirit (Fade Out)", moments that you can't help but smirk knowingly at.
At this stage in his and Radiohead's career, two of Yorke's musical inspirations were Elvis Costello and Scott Walker and, blimey, you can tell, but as a young aspiring singer will often do when emulating the vocals of his hero is eventually grow out of it. Yorke ultimately did and became confident in developing his own sound, but on this, the debut Radiohead album, he is delivering to us his pet peeves, politics and posturing in a skewed homage to Costello and Walker's vocals yet delivered in a rather undernourished and puerile way that suggests a healthy amount of youthful arrogance.
The second thing that will strike you when listening to Pablo Honey is how energetic it is, full of mounting enthusiasm and churlish naivety that must be admired. As with all Radiohead albums, one listen will not do it justice, as Yorke never writes lyrics that you can instantly hum along to, but one suspects that it is to early in the game to believe these songs are in any way profound. The tracks will undoubtedly stick in the memory though, in particular "Thinking About You", "I Can't", "Lurgee" and the unfortunately titled "Vegetable", simply because they encapsulate that sound of withdrawn desperation and pitiful regret that their next albums would take to a greater level. But Radiohead were yet to refine their sound, and as it is, Pablo Honey often presents itself as an obnoxious wall of noise: all crashing drums and slamming guitars with very little direction other than to be as loud as possible. There's no sign of simple, bittersweet melodies here, the kind that would make "Fake Plastic Trees", "No Surprises" and "How To Disappear Completely" so important. Some may enjoy this musical explosion, and as previously mentioned, there's a raw and exited energy on display that will eventually be focused into greater things, which is where the arguments start. It's easy to call Pablo Honey a great album with the benefit of hindsight after seeing what Radiohead have achieved since, so taking into account the dramatic change in quality in the bands' albums, a question springs to mind: what went right? Actually, that's a trick question, you really need to ask: what went wrong?
Unless you fell into a nuclear bunker in 1993 and have only just managed to find your way out (which is what happened to me until I became a Radiohead admirer recently), you'll already know that the single from Pablo Honey, "Creep", which stormed the world and made their name in America also, ironically, almost destroyed them. Due to the popularity of "Creep", the rest of their debut album was largely ignored, and Radiohead were instantly labelled "one hit wonders". During this period they were forced to experience the often embarrassing, humiliating and tacky mainstream youth-rock promotional juggernaut quick and early. Although at the time they must have felt cursed, in the long run it did them the world of good. Firstly it took away that cocky enthusiasm and forced them to step back and ask themselves "so why are we one-hit-wonders"?
The truth is Pablo Honey isn't that good, even if you buy it for the miserable-youth anthem "Creep", a song which, if listened to in a simple acoustic version (available later as a single b-side) can be found to be pretty worthy stuff, especially without those loud "cha-chung" noises. When compared to most substandard rock industry outputs Pablo Honey could be hailed as a work of art, but as you would with a great painter or film director, it is difficult to measure Radiohead against another artists work, only against their own standards, and so their first album ultimately fails in that respect.
Nice try though.
If you have yet to listen to a single Radiohead album and are curious as to what all the fuss is about, by all means invest in Pablo Honey, as after you've become addicted to The Bends, OK Computer, Kid A, Amnesiac, Hail To The Thief and all the surrounding b-sides, you'll find yourself stumbling back to their first ever album and trying to imagine what it was like back in 1993, hailing Creep as the song for your generation without knowing what was yet to come.
on February 9, 2003
OK, I'm not one of these guys who religiously collects every album and piece of memorabilia ever rolled off the production line by Radiohead, but I have enjoyed their music for as long as I can remember. This is truly all I can remember, sheerly as a result of it's (for want of a better word) "Radioheadness".
This album seems to have been designed without any of the constraints of your modern day "Arty" artists. It's sheer balls to the wall stuff, which can easily be directly reproduced live with no loss of quality. What's more is that all songs therein have that now forgotten concept of the riff, that little piece of a song which will make you remember it forever. For example, "Creep", who's ever going to forget this hard hitting, creative piece? It is a perfect concoction of Jonny Greenwood's everlasting dive into the deep crevasse of musical originality, and Thom Yorke's expansive lyrical imagination.
"Creep" is not the only colourful song on the album, that's for sure. "You", "Anyone Can Play Guitar" and... well pretty much every other title on the album has that Radioheadesque charm and impact.
The song which really hit me hard was "Blow Out", just because it's one of the last tracks on the album does not mean that it's no good. God no, this song is so dynamic and beautiful that it brings me to goosepimples every time I hear it. The transition from floaty and jazzy to hard and, well, perfect, works beautifully. It'd a difficult song to describe, but it really is fantastic.
In a way of summing up Pablo Honey, this isn't something you're going to like if you're more of a "Kid A" and "OK Computer" kind of person. But if you sway towards "The Bends", you're missing out on something big, I mean huge.
on June 10, 1999
If you've "done Radiohead backwards" as one reviewer here aptly put it, you'll come out of the sonic wall wondering if it could possibly get any better. It can, but brace yourself; Pablo Honey is muted, raw, and young. It does have wonderful high-points. One (not much mentioned here) is Thinking About You. This song is so quiet you may miss it at first. Try again. The lyric--a typical I'm- left-behind plaint--is treated with respectful understatement. Yorke's voice shows the ghost of its future, older beauty. The guitars are soft and relentlessly passionate. There is not an ounce of fat here, no maudlin explosion. Just an exquisite melody, quietly played. A very, very humane song. There are other high-points on Pablo Honey, including an ear-candy bridge in Vegetable, proving that RH were--even years ago--masters of the lush hook. And yes, there's the bald honesty and that jagged, flanged guitar in Creep. So, okay, buy Pablo Honey for Creep, if you must. Go ahead: trace their "roots." But listen to Thinking about You. Despite the brilliance yet to come, they haven't written anything this simple, aching, and sexual since.
on June 9, 2004
...they sounded like every other guitar rock band on the planet, and if there's anything Radiohead usually aren't, it's generic.
Alas, Radiohead's debut has not aged well at all in any way. Momentary flashes of the group's later brilliance pop up occasionally (most notably in the horrendously-overplayed (yet still high quality) "Creep" and the wonderful "Anyone Can Play Guitar"), but for the most part, it's a group trying to find its voice and failing miserably, as most of this album will be forgotten as soon as you're done listening to it.
Some would say that this album was ahead of its time when it came out. No it wasn't. Radiohead sounded like every other post-grunge outfit on the radio at that time. It can't really be "ahead of its time" if its sound can be classified by the time period it was released in.
Some would also say that you shouldn't come down so harshly on this album for being such an early release by the band, and this may be true. However, just going by the differences between Pablo Honey and The Bends (their second album), the jump in quality between the two is staggering. Even the difference in quality between Pablo Honey and the My Iron Lung EP (released the year after Pablo Honey) is pretty noticeable.
Overall, what we're left with are the very sketchy beginnings of one of the greatest bands in rock and roll. Some of you Radiohead fans might be tempted to buy it just to make your collection complete. Don't. You'll probably only listen to this album once and put it away on a shelf somewhere. Your money would be much better spent elsewhere. Also, those of you thinking about buying Pablo Honey as an intro to the group should think again. The Bends makes a much better introduction to the group's sound.
on March 9, 2004
Sometimes its hard to extract an album from a whole catalogue of work, difficult to contextualize something that led to so much more. But let's try.
Way back when, a group called 'On a Friday' became a regular fixture on the local Oxfordshire band-scene before changing name and releasing Drill EP in 1992. We (some friends and I) met them at the Cambridge Junction that year and did a fanzine interview. Small venue, small audience, but there was a growing rumour in certain scenes that this one song, Creep, had serious potential. People also talked in excited tones about Lurgee, apparently the band's favourite track, and Stop Whispering, which later propelled them into the Japanese market.
The truth is that this is a record firmly rooted in the indie scene of the late 80's/early 90's, when the kids were still dorks and wore band t-shirts and converse all-stars before they were cool. we all had stupid hair and jumped up and down, stinging our eyes with our sweaty curtain-like hairdos (see the music video for the Charlatans The Only One I Know), and all because our new hero was Kurt Cobain, rest his soul. The punky energy that Radiohead had was a great live experience, but it wasn't until a year or more later, when they returned with the My Iron Lung EP that we started to notice that there was more to it, a mellow side to the rabid intensity of songs like Pop is Dead. Seeing the band once more a few months later at the end of the tour for The Bends it was like seeing the butterfly emerge from the chrysalis. The audience was twice the size and the jumping up and down had morphed almost into a group sway. Nothing of the genius of a Fake Plastic Trees, will be found in Pablo Honey.
And that sums up Pablo Honey, it is a great record for jumping up and down to and for thinking fondly on the days before Radiohead were everyone's favourite band, but it is no masterpiece, that was probably OK Computer, or maybe Hail to the Thief, which is a somewhat more intricate construction. You might see if you can find a record by a band called Adorable (especially a song called Sunshine Smile) and check out what the contemporaries were doing at the same time.
And as for suggesting this is simple 'Brit-rock' fair is a little misleading - Radiohead were too early for that and never got caught up in the Oasis-era revival of guitar-driven music. It is probably to Radiohead's eternal credit that they have always sat outside definition or easily marked boundaries and this record set the trend.
on July 28, 2001
Although it doesn't tread the same experimental grounds that Radiohead's subsequent albums do, Pablo Honey is a very good album in it's own right. Something of a traditional album in British Pop, but featuring a sound and style that, even then, separated them from the rest of the pack. The band's potent three-guitar army is alternately pleasantly quiet and embracingly noisy. The quaint acoustic revertebrations of Thinking About You are a nice contrast to the noisy burst of feedback that precedes the chorus in the classic Creep. The album is pure BritPop, and very good too, but also features long instrumental sections with punchy guitar solos and feedback-drenched atmospherics that the band hasn't returned to since. They weren't the greatest of songwriters at the time (some songs, such as Anyone Can Play Guitar display a lyrical naivety that would no doubt embarrass Yorke now), but the band's sound is impeccable, and when they hit, they really hit. Radiohead will probably never return to this sound again; and while more recent experimental masterpieces like OK Computer and Kid A are unquestionably better albums, it's often nice to go back to this debut and know that Thom Yorke really CAN sing when he's not busy looping himself or singing backwards, and that he in tandem with Ed O' Brien, and (especially), Johnny Greenwood really are good guitar players in the traditional sense. And that's not to discount Phil or Colin (who puts in some really good bass parts)'s contributions, either. A very nice album that you shouldn't overlook.
on June 23, 2003
I have heard of this first album and I was fascinated by the single Creep, which is almost a classic right now. Besides, I'm a great Radiohead fan, I love all their albums, so I bought this only one that I didn't have in order to listen what it was about, and now, I've got mixed emotions about it. I must tell I hardly could identify this band with the one of OK Computer, Kid A and so on, and that's because Yorke's own voice sounds different. In addition, the style of this album is different to what Radiohead would create after, since they didn't start making use of a synthesizer till The Bends was released, and what I like most of this band is precisely the use of electronic beats, which can be noticed in the subsequent works. Also, I can't remember such happy tunes like the ones included here in any other albums. So, after some weeks listening, I can't appreciate Pablo Honey more than just listening to it a little. However, the work on the guitars is exceptional. In fact, there are a few great songs, especially Creep, How do you? or Prove yourself. So if you like the band, beware of listening to this album, since you may find it inappropriate for them, but for any other band. If you have never listened to Radiohead, I can tell you sincerely that all the other records do get a very high mark.