Pablo Honey


Capitol, 1993

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


Pablo Honey is the sound of Radiohead playing it safe. Released in the grunge year of 1993, the album was proof in the Yorkshire pudding that the Brits could fit into the alternative music scene as well as any Seattle band. While they may not have garnered the kind of immediate attention as their American counterparts, Radiohead would prove to outlast them by expanding their sound and creating excitement with their bold musical experiments.

This debut sounds little like the rest of the band's catalog, yet like that catalog it is able to suck the listener in. “You” does an admirable job at this, though “Creep” is the better tune and was the band's first hit, still perhaps the best song Radiohead has ever recorded. As a grunge anthem of sorts, it's so good that it appears twice on the record (the clean version is an uncredited hidden track that is exactly the same as the original, except the word “fucking” is replaced with “very”).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“How Do You?” picks up the pace, as lead vocalist Thom Yorke sings in an upper register - but thankfully, not in his trademark falsetto that has marred far too many Radiohead tracks. Most of the songs on Pablo Honey clock in at less than three minutes, another aspect that sets this debut apart. The major outlier here is “Stop Whispering,” where Yorke starts to whine a bit but redeems himself with the vocal hook of “Stop whispering, start shouting!” It's the longest song here and is probably meant to be the centerpiece.

If slur-singing is your cup of tea, then “Thinking About You” is your saucer. As one of the more straightforward Radiohead songs, it is a pleasantly simple number that makes the best use of an acoustic guitar. Screaming electric guitars are showcased on the complex “Anyone Can Play Guitar,” where distortion and varying tempos all contribute in making this a favorite among Radiohead fans. Other highlights include “Ripcord,” which throws a couple rhythmic curveballs but ends with the powerful guitars in sync, and “Vegetable,” which could have been a hit single if Yorke hadn't struggled so hard to sing over the cacophony of guitars.

The second half of the disc is repetitive and a tad boring. With a line like “better off dead,” “Prove Yourself” is a downer and an utter disappointment that we’ve heard far too many times. Yorke tries his best to salvage the song by holding the final note, but even that doesn’t quite work. “I Can’t” is another throwaway but is forgotten by the closers “Lurgee” and “Blowout,” which are both loose and light and feature a melody that makes Yorke shine.

“Blowout,” in particular, features a jazzy intro that would come into the fore on 2001's Amnesiac and builds to an impressive closer. As the most daring song on Pablo Honey, it serves as the perfect ending to a fine yet uncharacteristic beginning that shows an influential band finding its sound. It wouldn't be long before they did.

Rating: B-

User Rating: B



© 2006 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol, and is used for informational purposes only.