This is part of my continued rollout of the Top 50 Radiohead songs. For Parts 2, click here.
As promised yesterday, on this here blog, today I will begin presenting the 50 best Radiohead songs.
If you want to know what the methodology was to determine what these best 50 songs are, don’t click on the previous link because you won’t find it there. Instead rely on the fact that all of these rankings were determined by me in the highly precise “Do I like this song better than this song?” method.
Comprising the first batch of my rollout are songs 50-41. These songs consist mainly of songs from the OK Computer era all the way up to the 2016 release of A Moon Shaped Pool. You’ll find the odd song or two before OK Computer but a good batch of these are b-sides to the 1997 highly acclaimed, and until 4 weeks ago supremely despised by me, OK Computer.
That is the sort of methodology that has gotten me to blog about music on a blog read by 5 people, baby!
Without further delay, let us begin.
50. “Melatonin” | Airbag/How Am I Driving? EP
– Melatonin is a dietary supplement, typically used by people who can’t sleep. Under the spell of melatonin one gets vibrant dreams, with many claiming the ability to lucid dream. It is now a few months before the release of OK Computer and Thom Yorke appears to be a father. Part of the duties of being a father is putting a baby to sleep. If your father is Thom Yorke, it makes sense for this particularly weird and British man to write a lullaby for you about a dietary supplement readily available at Walgreen’s.
With its sleepy, beating bolero drum and dreamy, angel choir synths, “Melatonin” chugs along at a slow beat as Thom Yorke sings invocations to his son. “Dream sweet Prince!” sings Yorke, “Dream and death to all who stand in your way.” It’s a pretty meta line when ya think about just how filthy rich Thom Yorke’s son probably is.
This song is kinda like the “Go the Fuck to Sleep” from Radiohead.
49. “The Bends” | The Bends
– The title track to the band’s second album is a great song to singalong to. “Baby’s got the bends” is a fun chorus. Try it next time. Beats the hell out of singing “Hey Jude” or “Bohemian Rhapsody” for the hundredth time. Maybe your bartender will enjoy it, too, if not just for the fact that you’re not doing “Sweet Caroline” for the 50th time.
Seriously, when Thom says “Call in the CIA, the tanks and the whole marines to blow me sky hiiiiiiiiigh” is some real good stuff there. It’s a lovely reminder to when the man could hit those high notes.
48. “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” | In Rainbows
– The ultimate version of this song is the pre-album version that the band premiered at the Ether Festival.
I’m not very well trained at identifying music, so my very amateur ear wants to say that those tones you’re hearing in that version up there is a theremin. For a song so embroiled in its own prettiness, the Ether version just heightens the schmaltz a bit more for me and that is some of that good™ stuff. Also Thom’s song motions towards the end of that video. The guy is such a hilarious miniature oddball of a man.
47. “You” | Pablo Honey
– Pablo Honey is seriously underrated. I even wrote about how underrated an album it is. Thom had ugly hair. He looked like one of those Swedish triplets that were in the Daisy of Love show that VH1 used to host back in the late 2000’s/early 2010’s. The opening notes in this song and then the build up to all that grunge sweetness where Thom just yells “YOOOOUUUUUUUU!” Epic.
46. “Spectre” | Spectre Single
– The song that broke the band’s silence in almost 5 years also happens to be the song that restored my faith in a band that lost me during The King of Limbs era.
After failing to secure the song for the upcoming Bond film, the band liked the song enough to release it in December of 2015. It basically teased us in what direction A Moon Shaped Pool would be heading. All signs cautiously pointed me to be optimistic about where the sound was going. “Spectre” suggested that the tinny, monotonous drums of The King of Limbs were finally gone and back was the lush production from In Rainbows but this time with strings! Couple that last fact with Jonny becoming one of the best film producers out there and the hype machine was churning.
45. “Ful Stop” | A Moon Shaped Pool
– This monstrosity of a song first came to fruition in 2012 during the King of Limbs tour. Not much has changed between that version and the one released on A Moon Shaped Pool but that only serves it even more.
It’s the rising, monster centerpiece of A Moon Shaped Pool. As the first four opening tracks all build to it, the momentum that has been building is finally letting go and bursting open by the time “Ful Stop” comes on. That second half freakout is reminiscent of other Radiohead freakouts such as “The National Anthem” or “Idioteque.” “Ful Stop” sets up “Glass Eyes” on A Moon Shaped Pool very well, setting the tone and pace for the second half of Radiohead’s comeback new album.
44. “Bloom” | The King of Limbs
– There is nothing redeemable about The King of Limbs and that is okay to say as a Radiohead fan. Don’t let anyone ever shame you into admitting you think the album is acceptable. It is not and we had to basically wait for 8 years to get a proper follow up to In Rainbows.
“Bloom” is actually one of the only salvageable parts of The King of Limbs. It is a cool rock song with some pretty trumpets chiming in as Thom gargles something about turtles and other dumb Thom Yorke stuff. One of the other things lost in the King of Limbs hate: Thom Yorke really went down the “abstract lyricism” rabbit hole. While in songs like “Idioteque” singing about bunkers was used to convey imagery of panic and societal collapse, on The King of Limbs it was just really lazy writing that didn’t really say much of anything. It was dada but not even for the sake of dada. It was just real lazy stuff.
“Bloom” is good, though.
43. “A Reminder” | Airbag/How Am I Driving? EP
– This song has a really cool sample of the Prague train station in it. This is from an era when the band’s b-sides had some interesting stuff. The slow, pretty angel choirs from “Melatonin;” the Prague train station sample. It was a fun time.
I always liked this song because of the “if I get old, remind me once I was cool, once I was free” line. It serves as a reminder, even at my spritely age of 25, that I can’t be the old guy complaining about “kids these days.” That is some Clint Eastwood shit and Clint Eastwood talks to chairs. So ya know, remind me I was once cool.
42. “Myxomatosis (Judge, Jury & Executioner.)” | Hail to the Thief (The Gloaming.)
– The subtitle to this song ended up becoming a decent Atoms for Peace song. This song also has lyrics that were previously referenced in Cuttooth, an Amnesiac b-side far superior to this song.
This song is still pretty damn good, though. That driving bass line is fun.
41. “Airbag” | OK Computer
– The opening track on OK Computer starts us out right away with Thom Yorke’s Luddite sensibilities. The fear of technology that is present throughout all of the album is put aside if just for a bit. It is technology saving Yorke’s life.
It then becomes apparent why the song is titled “Airbag.” It serves as a metaphorical symbol that Yorke will harken back to throughout the song. The airbag that saved his life is what gave him a renewed sense of purpose. It is what, in a very specific, precise and brief moment, gives him a sense to live, a sense to “save the universe.” This song is about those precise moments in people’s lives that get lost in the muck of everyday life but transcend into our permanent memories, and it’s how we react and deal with those very precise moments that determine the outcomes of our lives. While Yorke may have chosen to remain scared of life and shelter himself even more from society and its technology, he instead is rejuvenated. He is changed and this symbol is there to ground us in the dark, paranoia of OK Computer.
There ya have it folks. Those were the opening 10 tracks of my “Top 50 Radiohead” songs rollout. Lots of b-sides and probably a couple of favorites in there in lower positions than others, but this is my list and I think it’s the nicest list ever created.
For the remainder of the list, numbers 40-31 may be rolled out tomorrow. Most likely will, but I don’t like promising much anymore because it’s a bad habit I need to break out of and my 4 or 5 readers are something I need to stay really loyal to.