There were days in 1993 when all I wanted to do was to run over to my friend Richie’s house and listen to the album “Pablo Honey.” We would sit in his room after school and discuss how Radiohead was so much better than Oasis or Blur.
“Creep” was a beautifully haunting song that spoke to both of us. I found it oddly romantic and the guitar parts that alternated between clean and sweet in the verses to the loud and heavily distorted choruses worked so well together.
Richie and I knew that Radiohead was going to be something special. While Nirvana and Pearl Jam ruled the airwaves, we talked about how grow and mature to outlast the genre-defining acts.
A couple of years later, as we watched Thom Yorke, who looked like a plastic Martin Short that melted a little bit in the microwave, belt out his enchanting melodies through the video “Fake Plastic Trees,” while riding around in a shopping cart in a neon grocery store, we nodded our heads in silent acknowledgment that this band was coming into its own.
The band’s 1997 smash success, “OK Computer,” proved us right. From start to finish, the album was perfect. Even the quirky Apple computer voice in “Fitter Happier” was somehow the right bit of technology used at the right time.
By that point, Kurt Cobain was a member of the 27 Club and Nirvana was no more. Meanwhile, Radiohead was experimenting with their sound and defying conventional genres. Mainstream music publications started to ask if Radiohead was the best band in the world.
The band ushered in the 21st century with “Kid A” and “Insomniac.” Rolling Stone featured the band on the cover of their publication in 2000 with a bold claim that still sticks out in memory to this day: “In order to save rock music, Radiohead had to destroy it.”
Radiohead ruled the music world but 2003’s “Hail to the Thief” signaled the beginning of the end for the band. While the album received critical acclaim, it started to become evident that, after years of reinventing themselves, Radiohead had nowhere else to go. The band had already pushed the envelope to the edge.
As the landscape of music changed and became more accepting of overproduced teen pop, the ratings of Radiohead’s next recordings began to slip. So, the band churned out best of and box set releases and Thom Yorke set out to create his own supergroup, Atoms for Peace.
In September, Radiohead will return to the studio to record its ninth album. Before that time, though, I would like to implore the band that helped define the youth of countless individuals including myself to just go out gracefully. Sometimes, it’s OK to just play your old hits or, you know, just stop all together.