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Pablo Honey—5
 
Released: 1993

1) You  2) Creep  3) How Do You?  4) Stop Whispering  5) Thinking About You  6) Anyone Can Play Guitar  7) Ripcord  8) Vegtable  9) Prove Yourself  10) I Can't  11) Lugree  12) Blow Out

 

Thom Yorke, born in October 1968 with his left eye fixed shut and for which he had five operations before his sixth birthday, was constantly harassed as a child because of his oddly drooped eye and was so sensitive and tempered, he got into a lot of fights as a youngster.  Many considered him difficult and eclectic…an eccentric punk.  After his family moved around throughout his elementary years, they finally settled down for Thom to attend one of the oldest private high schools in England, the prestigious, Oxford based, Abingdon (established in 1256).  Here Thom met Colin Greenwood, born July 1969.  Like Thom, classmates picked on Colin ruthlessly, but in his case it was because of his oddly shaped head and sunken facial features.  The two kindred spirits became fast friends based on their unusual fashion tastes and a massive love for music (Colin played bass and Thom played guitar). 

 

Performing together in a band as early as age 14, the classmates met up with fellow Abingdon student and Oxfordite, Edward O’Brien, born April 1968.  Ed was the polar opposite of Colin and Thom being over six feet four inches tall, an excellent athlete, and having a very cool look about him; but his passion for music brought the three friends close and they began performing together under various names using a drum machine.  This soon became unpractical, so the band found drummer Phil Selway, born May 1967.  Selway was another Abingdon student whose friends had beaten up Thom in the past, but this was apparently overlooked because of his ability.  With Selway on drums, the fledgling band decided on a permanent name, On A Friday, and attempted to take the 1983 Oxford music scene by storm.

 

It didn’t happen that way however, as something was missing from their sound.  Grudging it out for over a year, Colin finally invited his younger brother, Johnny (born November, 1971) to attend band rehearsals to try and fit in.  Being only 13 at the time, the younger Greenwood might have seemed to be at a disadvantage, but he was by far the most musically gifted member of the band and was equally adapt at organ, harmonica, and guitar.  With all the pieces in place, On A Friday slowly, but surely began to pick up a fan base and develop a unique sound. 

 

College got in the way, however.  Selway was the first to leave attending Liverpool Polytechnic College majoring in English and History.  O’Brien attended Manchester University the next year majoring in Economics.  Colin followed the year after attending Cambridge University and majoring in English literature.  After taking a year off, Thom attended Exeter University the next year majoring in English and Art.  Amazingly and uniquely, the band stayed together throughout their college years and still played gigs whenever they came back home.  Many different bands heavily influenced On A Friday’s sound as they developed, but the two most important were R.E.M. and the Pixies.  Using these key influences, On A Friday recorded their first demo and shopped around their tape to record companies after they had all finished college in 1990.

 

Johnny Greenwood began playing lead guitar and quit college (he had been attending Oxford Polytechnic, majoring in psychology and music) to concentrate on the band shortly after EMI signed the odd sounding, three-guitar based, On A Friday, in late 1991.  Feeling that On A Friday was a terrible name, all five members agreed to change the band name to Radiohead after a Talking Heads song.  After a year of recording an EP entitled “Drill” and fairly extensive touring, they released their debut album “Pablo Honey” in 1993.

                                     

You” opens the album with a heavy-handed, borderline generic, rock track.  Yorke’s voice is already fully formed: haunting, beautiful, and not quite right.  The band itself is derivative, wearing their influences on their sleeve here, but the tune is very prophetic, sounding like a smaller version of what they would eventually become.  The almost one-hit wonder making “Creep” follows.  Yorke’s quirky peon to teenage anguish is all attitude and acne while Johnny Greenwood’s thrashing sonic blast to introduce the chorus is unique and powerful.  The tune was named Best Song of 1993 by Rolling Stone and reached number seven on the British charts, but pigeonholed the band so much so, that they quickly began to hate the tune.  Without it though, it is doubtful “Pablo Honey” would have sold a single album at all.          

 

How Do You?” is just bad.  Dated, unoriginal, and lacking, it sounds like the band had one rehearsal together and came out with this.  The middle freak out section maybe proved they didn’t even have that one rehearsal.  Stop Whispering” is far better.  Acoustic, catchy and lighthearted, this is an obvious ode to R.E.M. but does stand out on its own, being the most instantly likeable track on the entire record.  Unfortunately, the tune drags on for five and a half minutes, ruining any likeability it had with its sheer length.  Thinking About You” is actually a very good ballad, with driving acoustic strumming, and might be the album’s non-“Creep” highlight.  Side A concludes with “Anyone Can Play Guitar.”  This is one of the better songs on the album as well, foreshadowing Radiohead’s later sound with its layered and double-tracked guitars—all in all, a very decent tune. 

 

Nothing really separates “Ripcord” from any other garage band’s song of the era.  It is just a fast paced rock song about falling from an airplane.  Not bad, but not memorable at all.  Vegetable” is a complex tune, trying its ass off to be good.  Unfortunately it falls short, lacking any type of hook (although the middle eight is very well done).  On “Prove Yourself,” Thom moans he would be better off dead, and while the tune isn’t bad really, again, nothing stands out to make you pay attention to the song.  This entire record sounds like it could have been made by any number of thousands of semi-professional bar bands.  I Can’t” sounds like the Goo Goo Dolls.  The coda is very interesting, but the song itself isn’t anything spectacular.  Lurgee” is the band’s attempt at an atmospheric piece, with the ending fadeout being the best part of the tune.  The album closes with “Blow Out.”  This offers the atmosphere that “Lurgee” couldn’t follow through on.  It slowly builds tension and the mass produced sonic blasts are much better here than on the rest of the album.

 

Pablo Honey” wouldn’t even be in my record collection if it weren’t Radiohead’s first album.  Every tune sounds similar and there is hardly a hook on the entire album.  With that being said, it isn’t ridiculously bad…it is just ordinary and average...Two words that future Radiohead albums could never be labeled.

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