Back Story

  • ORIGIN: Oxford, UK
  • CORE MEMBERS: Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Colin Greenwood, Ed O’Brien, Phil Selway
  • GENRES: Rock, indie, electronica
  • YEARS ACTIVE: 1985-present

Listen to Radiohead’s debut Pablo Honey 20 years on, and it feels like a prologue. The grungey ingénues of 1993 seemed happier to run with the pack than set the pace. Also on that record, of course, was the breakout hit Creep, and their entire career can be seen as a chain of events that leads directly from that period. The group’s mortification at being defined by one song prompted the creative block that singer Thom Yorke found himself only able to exorcise by delivering the confessional catharsis of The Bends. Speaking to MOJO in 2003, drummer Phil Selway opined that the opaque, esoteric detours of Kid A and Amnesiac were prompted in part by Yorke’s feeling that he had laid himself too bare on the group’s preceding albums...(continues below)


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Increasing revulsion that they might be a part of rock music’s mooted obsolescence has created a tension in Radiohead’s music that is never likely to be resolved, and by evolving with every new album, they’ve become peerlessly adept at giving us the record that we didn’t know we wanted. To call Radiohead a band these days only goes some way to describing how they run their affairs. At times, they seem more like a loose aggregation of likeminded music workers dispensing sonic bulletins. The last two albums appeared with almost no advance notice, whilst you’d be forgiven for missing some of the inspired recordings that have surfaced between albums: in particular 2011’s digital two-hander The Daily Mail/Staircase and 2009’s Harry Patch (In Memory Of).

“We’re such a bunch of stupidly self-critical pathological over-achievers.”

Thom Yorke, MOJO, 2006

Like The Beatles and David Bowie, their influence seems to be all around us. To any young guitar band worth their salt, The Bends and OK Computer remain part of the core curriculum; to latter-day sonic expeditionaries such as Animal Collective and Jon Hopkins, Kid A and Amnesiac are proof that esoteric, challenging music can cross over to a discerning global fanbase. Over two decades, Radiohead have given us the best of both worlds.