Hearing Radiohead in 1993 was, to many, a little like hearing the “British Nirvana.” This bitter grunge stuff was withering on the vine, with the American kids on their way out of the Seattle haze.
‘93 was the year of In Utero, the year before we lost Kurt, the year of Pearl Jam’s Ten, and STP’s Core. Yet the influence of grunge was already slipping: Whitney Houston topped the chart with a bleedin’ soundtrack, for one, and Dr. Dre introduced us to The Chronic.
But here was this group of Oxford gents with this Pablo Honey and this song called “Creep.”
Pablo Honey didn’t stand out in ’93, at least to the best of my recollection. It was a record I had but a record I didn’t particularly need. “Creep” kept making the rounds, though, no matter where I went. In fact, that fucking song overshadowed everything else on Radiohead’s debut.
I dunno, maybe it was all of that 90s self-loathing we were all so comfortable with.
Not that the rest of the album was sunny-side-up: “I’m better off dead,” Thom sang on “Lose Yourself.”
Hearing Pablo Honey in 2009, c/o this jealousy-magnet Collector’s Edition, is not at all like hearing the “British Nirvana.” It’s like hearing a masterful band entering the fray for the first time with a guitar-tinged, melodic, stripped-down rock record.
Things have changed since 1993, that’s for damn sure. Radiohead has changed and a listen back to Pablo Honey exposes the dazzling building blocks of OK Computer, Kid A, and In Rainbows. From Yorke’s grand falsetto to Jonny Greenwood’s guitar wizardry, everything you need to know about why Radiohead went where they went is woven into every track.
“Creep” really is “so fucking special.” It may well have driven Yorke and Co. to scorn the stupid thing for a while, what with all those boneheads showing up just to hear it and then bugger off, but it really is a gorgeous song. Word was that Greenwood didn’t like how soft it was, so he jammed his guitar as noisily and spitefully as possible to throw it all out the window. It sounds like someone cocking a gun.