Discography Ranked: Radiohead
Welcome to Discography Ranked, a series of blogs dedicated to ranking an artist’s entire discography. Whether you’re a fan of this artist or not, my opinion on the matter is completely idiosyncratic. We’re all entitled to our own opinions.
Since their first album release in 1993, Radiohead has gone from a basic compiling of conventional alternative rock chart music to being one of the most innovative and influential bands in the last 30 years. The Oxford-based band has not only changed their sound with every record they’ve put out but has found a way to keep their large audience with them along the journey. Whether you’re a fan of Radiohead or not, it’s pretty remarkable what they’ve been able to accomplish since their first album.
However, just like every other band, some records are a lot better than others. In my first installment of Discography Ranked, I’m going to rank all nine of Radiohead’s records from worst to best. If you’re disappointed or disagree with my ranking, realize it’s completely subjective and opinion-based. I’m no more of an expert than any other arbitrary person. Nonetheless, let’s get started.
9. Pablo Honey (1993)
If you’re a fan of Radiohead, then you easily could’ve predicted the placement of Pablo Honey. Without being too much of a critic, the album clearly doesn’t hold up very well. It’s a very tedious and monotonous album that sounds like every other 90s alternative guitar-anthem rock record.
Yes, it resulted in their most significant hit Creep, but as Radiohead fans, do we even like that song? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a listenable record, and songs like Blow Out are still a fine listen. However, on the grand scheme of Radiohead’s discography, this is their weakest effort. I can go on forever, but this isn’t a very controversial take.
8. The King of Limbs (2011)
Some of you may disagree with me on the placement of The King of Limbs, and that’s fine. Considering this was their eighth release, I expected a lot more from Radiohead at this point in their career.
One of my favorite records of theirs, In Rainbows, preceded it, and I expected the group to take a further jump forward from the high-point of In Rainbows. Instead, they went down an experimental electronica route that felt very dull. The ambient and melancholy sound of Give Up The Ghost and Bloom stood out to me from the record, but the rest of the album fell very flat to me.
7. The Bends (1995)
How dare I rank The King of Limbs lower than The Bends. Yes, a controversial take, but The Bends is a very solid alternative rock album. It’s essentially a more cohesive and better-written version of Pablo Honey. The group started to add another layer to their guitar-anthem driven sound but still were very deep in the commonality of alternative rock.
The album begins with the catchy and demanding song in Planet Telex, one of my favorite early songs from the group. Not to mention the dismally anthemic High and Dry and the pitch-shifted guitar-driven My Iron Lung.
6. Hail to the Thief (2003)
After Amnesiac, the group clearly wanted to implement more of the guitar-driven sound they initially stuck by, while keeping the same experimental tone presented through Amnesiac and Kid A. Hail to the Thief is a decent record, and has a few of my favorite Radiohead songs on it.
Who could forget the dynamic shift in sound of 2 + 2 = 5? Or the brutally honest representation of reality from Where I End and You Begin? My only issues with the album have to do with its length. From my perspective, the album desperately needs a trim, but beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose.
5. Amnesiac (2001)
Upon your first listen of Amnesiac, you’ll appreciate its originality and mournful sound that encompasses each verse and melody throughout the record. Tracks like Pyramid Song and Life in a Glasshouse will remain as two of my favorite tunes from the group.
The only downside of the album has to do with its predecessor Kid A since Amnesiac is undoubtedly a b-side version of Kid A. Although Amnesiac has a lot of great tracks on it, it’s essentially a “light” version of Kid A. Still, it’s a notably solid album.
4. In Rainbows (2007)
In Rainbows is a return to sound they originally crafted on Ok Computer from 1997. Although Hail to the Thief brought back a lot of the critical components of ambient guitar-driven Radiohead from Ok Computer, In Rainbows is a better version of it. It’s concise, and every track on it is reasonably memorable. Bodysnatchers, House of Cards, Jigsaw Falling Into Place, and All I Need are a few of my favorite tracks from the album.
3. A Moon Shaped Pool (2016)
Yes, A Moon Shaped Pool. Considering one of my least favorite albums from the group, The King of Limbs, came right before A Moon Shaped Pool, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the group. What I got in return was a relentlessly honest, patient, and fatalistic record that represents a lot of motifs I tend to swim around in from time to time.
Given that Thom Yorke had a recent divorce during the recording of this record, the music and lyrical standpoint of the album is a clear indication of his emotional being. It might seem a bit slow or mundane to casual Radiohead fans, but to me, it’s an elegant and poignant listen.
2. Ok Computer (1997)
Ok Computer is where Radiohead began to realize their full potential since they added the needed element to their methodical alternative rock sound. Some fans might argue this is their best album, and at times, I agree with them. However, their release after Ok Computer is when the group truly found their identity.
Yes, Ok Computer is a fantastic record, but the group strayed a lot farther away from the sound presented on it. Nonetheless, just about every track on the album is excellent. Some of my favorites include Airbag, The Tourist, Paranoid Android, and No Surprises.
1. Kid A (2000)
The mystical and artistic climax of Kid A. Kid A is when the group made a massive shift in their sound. Rather than produce another great guitar-driven alternative rock album like Ok Computer, the group abandoned everything they had built up in their music. At this point, the group was exhausted from touring and wanted to change what they were trying to create ultimately. Adding elements of electronica and post-rock paid off as it led to the growth of their sound and fanbase.
The anthemic synthesizer-driven opener of Everything in its Right Place is a clear indication of what to expect from the album. It’s a representation of the grimly realistic and sorrowful songs that had every element of dynamic change personified in it. Not to mention the acid-trip turn of The National Anthem and the booming electronic sound through Idioteque. It’s one of my favorite records of all time, and I’ll never forget the day I first listened to it.