A Beginner’s Guide to the World of Radiohead
Life Plugged In
Published: Friday, January 25, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 24, 2013 00:01
Attending Bonnaroo this past summer was one of the most influential experiences I’ve ever had. Going into the whole thing, I was only truly familiar with a few of the bands set to perform. The friends with me didn’t really know much either, so I decided to make a serious attempt to become more informed about the bands I did and did not know of beforehand. I figured, why not try to know a ton about what I was about to see? If I knew more about all the bands, I could have the most sway over my friends when deciding which acts to see. I started with all the bands I had heard of but hadn’t listened to, familiarizing myself with their music, but there was one band that really stuck out. I quickly fell in love with Radiohead, a band that has had an incredible influence on me.
One of the greatest things about becoming a Radiohead fan is getting to listen to its incredible transformation from “Nirvana-lite” to this extraordinary force of musical talent and innovation. Their first album Pablo Honey (1993) is really only worth mentioning because of “Creep,” the band’s most recognizable song. The rest of the album is great, but it hasn’t really had any sort of impact on me.
After delving further into its music, I found “High and Dry” from their second album The Bends (1995). The Bends is incredible, and was first time the band really stepped out of the box in terms of its sound — although it still has the punkish alt-rock vibe of Pablo Honey, its content is much more sophisticated. After doing further research, I discovered its next album. OK Computer (1997) floored me. It was different from anything I had ever heard, and it really hooked me, drawing me further into the intense world of Radiohead fandom.
Eventually, I found “Idioteque,” which introduced me to Radiohead’s more experimental, electronic songs. Kid A is the first album that I truly appreciated as a full piece of work right away. Soon after, I fell in love with their most recent album, The King of Limbs (2011). It was the strangest and most incredible combination of electronic and rock music I had ever heard, and I loved it. Throughout all of this, I had also picked up on some of the more popular tracks from Hail to the Thief (2003) — an album that is heavily computerized with electronic rock vibes — and In Rainbows (2007), which incorporates a wide variety of musical styles. Since then, I’ve come to love both albums in their entireties.
But by the time Bonnaroo came around, I had only superficially begun my Radiohead journey. Although the set list included some of its more popular songs, I realized that I was still unfamiliar with a lot of its music. My friends were impressed by both the songs and my relative familiarity with the band. I quickly returned to brushing up on my Radiohead knowledge and realized that I was completely enamored with them. Through my time and investment in my research, I’ve developed a personal investment in the band, as well as in the individual members and their various solo and side projects. Radiohead has come to be an important part of my life and is probably the biggest influence on my musical tastes. I may be a bit excessive in my fandom, but I’m okay with that, as I’m sure its intensity is temporary and will probably wane — it’s already started to pop up less in my music rotation. But I’ll always have been influenced by the band’s music and can’t imagine ever falling out of love with it.
Here’s a list of 10 great Radiohead songs that can provide a great introduction into its musical styles:
“High and Dry”
“The National Anthem”
“Jigsaw Falling into Place”
Zach Gordon is a sophomore in the College. LIFE PLUGGED IN appears every other Friday in the guide.