Radiohead are now widely acknowledged as having one of the greatest discographies in music history, varying from the brilliant to the outright bizarre. Their fearless approach towards the element of concept albums helped create a sound that is very difficult to rival, and even harder to rank. With 9 albums now under their belt, it’s time for me to rank their projects, from the worst to the very best, even if worst may be somewhat of a disservice of a word to use when discussing a Radiohead project. So what’ll come out on top? Let’s find out.
9: The King Of Limbs – Released 2011
This is the only Radiohead project I can safely say didn’t work. It was an experimental gamble that fell flat on its face as the band attempted to merge their dark and moody atmosphere with an electronic vibe. Needless to say the experiment was unsuccessful and as a result we were given ‘The King Of Limbs’ unfortunately. With this being their 8th album and it failing to hit expectations and normal standards as drastically as it did, people were questioning Radiohead’s future in the industry and their ability to create another great project. Even then we were given a couple of stand out tracks, with ‘Morning Mr Magpie’ providing a slick sound to an otherwise disappointing album.
8: Amnesiac – Released 2001
You can’t help but feel the ‘Kid A’ follow up came a bit too soon after such a masterpiece as the 2000 release was. Trying to replicate and carry on momentum from an album like that just 12 months after was an incredibly bold move by Radiohead and although it didn’t reach the standard of ‘Kid A’, there was plenty of reason to enjoy ‘Amnesiac’. It’d be harsh to criticise this album by comparing it to it’s predecessor because ‘Kid A’ was so groundbreaking, so we shall instead just call it another good Radiohead project, full of progression and attitude with plenty to shout home about. ‘Pyramid Song’ is stunning and hasn’t aged a day while ‘Life In A Glasshouse’ is an epic finale.
7: Pablo Honey – Released 1993
Ah yes, the Radiohead debut album, the project which spawned the now infamous track ‘Creep’, a song which has basically become a meme amongst Radiohead fans for it’s soaring popularity. As much as people will hate to admit it, ‘Creep’ is more than likely one of the best tracks on ‘Pablo Honey’ due to its energy and aggression in the chorus, as well as the catchy lyrical use. ‘Anyone Can Play Guitar’ and ‘Ripcord’ also treat us to some of Johnny Greenwood’s many talents on lead guitar while giving a good grunge style sound, bringing a UK style to a Pearl Jam/Nirvana dominated industry. It was the platform for greater things and looking back you feel that the band knew it would be that all along.
6: Hail To The Thief – Released 2003
This album begins majestically with one of Radiohead’s greatest triumphs in the haunting aggression ballad ‘2+2=5’ which is as grand as it is understated. ‘Sail To The Moon’ and ‘I Will’ are soft ballads of glory and although the album as a whole has a great sound to it, you get the impression that it is always chasing the quality shown in that album opener. It is a step up from ‘Amnesiac’ without a doubt but you can’t help but feel they used a lot of their talents on ‘Kid A’ and set themselves an almost immovable bar by creating such a diverse and phenomenal project.
5: In Rainbows – Released 2007
A truly great album which shot Radiohead back to the top of the dynamic music world. The production is absolutely staggering at times, particularly on the album’s stand out tracks ’15 Step’ and ‘House Of Cards’; with the former sounding, instrumentally at least, unlike anything we had ever heard from Radiohead before. It truly was the flagship of a new era for the band and it kept them up to date with modern trends while also proving their credentials as the kings of the 21st century bands. Vocally Thom Yorke sounded fresh and eager while the rest of the band pitched in with quirky yet abrasive electro-rock music, it became a staple of the new age Radiohead sound and I for one loved it.
4: A Moon Shaped Pool – Released 2016
One of 2016’s best and creative releases and one which saw a fantastic return to form for Radiohead, ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ was their best release since 2000’s inventive masterpiece ‘Kid A’. Lead single ‘Burn The Witch’ demonstrates a progressive tale of horror and raw emotion while ‘True Love Waits’ unveils a tragedy of heartache on the romantic side of frontman Thom Yorke. In my review of this album I described it as “more than just music” as it gave you a sense of longing and an experience you really felt divulged inside, listening to this album in full gives you the true experience.
3: The Bends – Released 1995
Radiohead’s Pop Album, if such a thing ever existed, was given to us as a follow up to debut ‘Pablo Honey’ in 1995; and it provided some of Radiohead’s finest moments and the sounds we now know them for so famously. Acoustic sounds came from singles ‘High And Dry’ and ‘Fake Plastic Trees’, both of which are absolutely gorgeous moments of fragility and passion from the band. As well as this they have a song like ‘Just’ on there which is far more radio friendly than most other songs on here as well as boasting a stunning guitar riff from Johnny Greenwood. Diehard Radiohead fans will tell you this album isn’t as good as something like ‘Hail To The Thief’ simply because of how many singles spawned from this, but that doesn’t shy away from the sheer quality on display from start to finish on ‘The Bends’.
2: Kid A – Released 2000
The experimental genius, the artist’s stroke, the sculptor’s masterpiece. Radiohead went into musical folklore with ‘Kid A’ and it’s not just because it came directly after ‘OK Computer’, it was the offspring of Thom Yorke’s drastic change in emotion as he suffered a near collapse of his mental health after ‘OK Computer’ was released. Hardly any advertisement or promotion, no singles released, one of the first albums to be encouraged through the Internet; yet it still went platinum in the first week and was a Grammy winner for Best Alternative Album. ‘Idioteque’ is an absolute triumph, truly one of the 21st century’s greatest songs bar none. The fact it would come 2nd on any list is mind-blowing, but that’s just how good Radiohead are, almost any other band in music history and this would soar to the top. ‘Kid A’ is an album we should cherish, an album you should tell your grandkids about, it’s the album which transferred us all and prepared us for the modern age of online transformation and psychotic synthesisers.
1: OK Computer – Released 1997
Quite simply a masterpiece from start to finish. Radiohead’s third studio album ‘OK Computer’ hit the shelves in 1997, the very year I was born onto this earth, and this album has aged a hell of a lot better than I have. When it first came out it was critically acclaimed, but as time went on it gained more and more praise and it has eventually become universally acknowledged as not only Radiohead’s best project, but also one of the greatest albums to ever exist. Whether it’s the sorrow and devastation Yorke’s vocals encapsulate on ‘No Surprises’ and ‘The Tourist’ or the progressive genius wrapped inside ‘Paranoid Android’ and ‘Subterranean Homesick Alien’, Radiohead hit every nail on every head on ‘OK Computer’ to create a 10/10 work of art.