Tim Brough | Springfield, PA United States | 02/23/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Before Thom Yorke decided he hated the world and began writing about it, Radiohead debuted with modest rock and roll album in 1993. Granted, it is easy to see that these guys were art-school rockers with some ambition, but the bulk of "Pablo Honey" mixes punky, Replacements like thrashing with the them coming to prominence of grunge. It's an otherwise inauspicious debut, the dawn of a band.
That is, except for the hit. "Creep" played off the soft-loud-soft-loud grunge blueprint with a heaping dose of pre-hipster self-loathing irony and managed to become a hit on both sides of the Atlantic. "You're so f---ing special," moans Yorke as guitarist Johnny Greenwood's stabbing cracks the docile surface, "I wish I were special, but I'm a Creep." Despite the fact the the band soon came to loathe the song (on The Bends, they slag the success of their hit during "My Iron Lung"), it did set the tone for much of what Radiohead would develop as a band attitude later.
That said, the rest of "Pablo Honey" has a few gems to be found. The more acoustic based "Thinking About You" is as plain a song as the band's ever done. "Anyone Can Play Guitar" is pretty much a fun song, and the time-workout of "You" is a lot more complicated than it sounds at first blush. Given the incredible path Radiohead would blaze within a few years, "Pablo Honey" shows a band working to find what eventually would be a unique voice on the alternative rock pantheon."
Philip Masiakowski | Milwaukee, WI USA | 05/20/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Crazy time signature shifts, yearning falsetto, and layers of texture. You may think these words are being used to describe "Paranoid Android" or "Pyramid Song." But while the studio production may not be as over-the-top as those records, they are here being used to describe "You" or "Ripcord" or "I Can't."
Pablo Honey is a strange work. It contains enough artistic merit and uniqueness to be considered a great record, and yet it remains consistently derided as "pop" or "Nirvana-lite" by critics who refuse to acknowledge that they just plain got it wrong. These same critics, who often laud OK Computer and Kid A, forget what makes Radiohead so great in the first place: every album takes the band in a fresh, new direction. After all, how many times could Radiohead have made OK Computer and still be respected for it?
And Pablo Honey was the first of the band's many directions. Relying more on instrumentation and skill than on studio tricks and oddities, it provides a no-nonsense rock record that contemporaries were struggling to create, not churning out on a regular basis as the critics would have you believe. Take a song like "Lurgee"--so beautiful in its melody, yet equally as purifying lyrically. Listen to "Prove Yourself"--a song that quickly turns from self-deprecation to belief and confidence. Or what about "Blow Out," which starts as a mellow lounge song and rapidly blasts into a wave of guitars and frenzied drumming?
And there were a couple of songs, "Anyone Can Play Guitar" and "Creep", which sound pretty good themselves as singles. "Creep" in particular turns "bitter" from a mood into a concept.
When it comes to Radiohead, I think my favorite album is Kid A, followed by OK Computer. But Pablo Honey remains my third favorite."