20 Years Ago – Radiohead’s ‘Pablo Honey’ Released
‘Pablo Honey’ is the Radiohead album fans wish didn’t exist. From the start, the band’s 1993 debut was doomed for dismissal. It was preceded the previous year by the group’s first single, ‘Creep,’ which, at the time, seemed like just another song in a series of mopey alt-rock tunes that surfaced after Nirvana’s 1991 complaint-rock classic ‘Nevermind.’ Sure, it had that great chunky guitar-slashing assault before the chorus, but other than that, ‘Creep’ didn’t sound all that special.
When ‘Pablo Honey’ followed in early 1993 (the album celebrates its 20th anniversary today), not much quieted suspicions that Radiohead just got lucky with ‘Creep’ (a modern-rock radio hit that made it all the way to No. 2). The follow-up song, ‘Stop Whispering,’ barely cracked the Top 25, pretty much paving the way for Radiohead to join Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and Jesus Jones in the footnoted annals of modern-rock history.
Then something strange happened: Radiohead returned in 1995 with ‘The Bends,’ a terrific album that revealed layers of sonic wonder and musical sophistication that were either unchecked or nonexistent when they made ‘Pablo Honey.’ The rest, as they say, is history. And Radiohead’s militant fans – and there are countless devoted and insufferable ones among them – will quickly tell you how awful ‘Pablo Honey’ is.
But it isn’t awful. It isn’t great either. The band rarely shows the depth they exhibit on ‘The Bends’ and subsequent albums, but a handful of cuts – particularly the aforementioned singles and ‘Anyone Can Play Guitar’ – plant the seeds of later, better works. ‘Pablo Honey’ reached No. 32 on the chart and eventually went platinum. And while it easily could have been forgotten, the record remains an important part of their legacy — the early, tentative steps of one of the 21st century’s most important bands.
Watch the Video for Radiohead’s ‘Creep’