There’s been a bit of a Radiohead theme here this week, and the talk of Thom Yorke’s solo projects got us thinking about how much better the band turned out to be than anyone could possibly have ever expected on the evidence of their debut album. The shift between Pablo Honey and The Bends is one of music’s greatest leaps forward, and the success of the latter represented vindication for a band who’d staked everything on determinedly not making anything that sounded like another “Creep.” There’s always an element of risk in such creative left turns, clearly – no one wants to end up looking like Style Council-era Paul Weller, or making an album as indescribably dreadful as Chris Cornell’s Scream – but when such reinventions come off well, they make for some of music’s most memorable moments. Here’s 12 of the best.
Pablo Honey (1993) to The Bends (1995) and OK Computer (1997)
Radiohead have had a couple of great creative shifts over the course of their career, and although the wholesale creative inhalation of Warp’s back catalogue that characterized the OK Computer to Kid A transition was the most musically dramatic, the greatest conceptual leap forward came between their debut, Pablo Honey, and the two albums that followed it. The shift is best exemplified by the fact that Pablo Honey’s “How Do You?” and OK Computer’s “Let Down” share pretty much exactly the same chord structure, but whereas the former’s probably the most dully conventional rocker the band ever recorded, the latter is a delicately forlorn declaration of existential terror. And way, way better.