Let’s get straight to the hits. No filler.
30. “Bullet Proof…I Wish I Was” | The Bends
– “Limb by limb, tooth by tooth…Every day I wish I was bulletproof.” How much easier could life be if we were all impermeable in life. If we were all bulletproof. This song belongs in the same sonic mold of “Blow Out” and “Planet Telex,” songs that were pushing in a more shoegaze direction. Paired with the song’s desire to be invincible is the fragile, slow-burning music. The music is leading the charge, as a passive Thom Yorke drowns in sonic waves. The music is fluid. There’s arching bows peaking and crashing throughout the song, while Thom sings with his best voice about wanting to be unbreakable. It is a song where the music perfectly compliments the lyrical tone and content, and it is when Radiohead puts in their best work (see “Subterranean Homesick Alien“)
29. “Creep” | Pablo Honey
– Radiohead fanboys are almost always super trash people. Unbearable, elitist assholes who use their fascination of the band to mask their insecurities. “Radiohead is boring music for boring nerds,” and the fanboys fucking suck.
Now imagine the sort of terrible dickhead who likes to trash “Creep.” Not only is “Creep,” a really fun song to sing, but it’s also a damn great song. It’s a song that every single guy, because male privilege is a thing and breaking out that bubble is often hard, has ever related to. Whether guys want to admit it or not, we’ve all at one point felt or been “creeps, weirdos.” It’s what makes this song so enjoyable. The crunching guitars sounds, Thom wailing about being a weirdo. We have all been there.
Thom’s also a fucking dick for half assing this song when they do it live. Fuck him.
Also, Prince’s cover of “Creep” >>>> Radiohead’s. One of the best things the band has ever done is somehow pressuring Prince to finally release video of his cover of this song. That feat alone would be top 5 on this list.
How do you know you’re one sexy motherfucker? When you can make a song about being a creep and weirdo, into something sexy and magical. That is Prince for you in nutshell.
28. “India Rubber” | Fake Plastic Trees (CD 1) Single
– I don’t think The Bends‘s b-sides get anywhere near as much respect as the Amnesiac or OK Computer ones. Hell, the extremely overrated In Rainbows Disc 2 gets more talk than The Bends‘s b-sides. Between the My Iron Lung EP and all the singles, The Bends fucking rules.
This song shows the musical diversity that they had going for them during this time. It’s a very different song from a lot of their stuff. It’s stuck in the 90’s sound of weird Pavementy things that a lot of indie acts from the 90’s often tried to imitate, but it’s an outstanding piece that stands out from the rest of the band’s discography. It’s also really fun. They incorporate Jonny Greenwood’s laugh in the song and it’s during the end. It’s climactic as the song reaches to meet its end.
27. “Cuttooth” | Knives Out (CD 1) Single
– Amnesiac‘s b-sides are absolutely the best b-sides that Radiohead have ever done. Bar none. There’s stuff on here that should have made it onto the album and should have replaced some of the worst songs Radiohead have ever done. The track listing choices for this album are an absolute catastrophe. Imagine thinking that stuff like “Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors” is better and more worthy of being on a full-length album than a b-side like “Cuttooth.”
This is an instance of the band just outthinking itself too much. Release Amnesiac as a double album. If you really wanna keep crappy stuff like “Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors” or “Hunting Bears” on an album that is fine. The Beatles’s self-titled (commonly referred to as “The White Album”) has shit like “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.” If you can’t figure out what tracks to cut from a track listing or how to make it all work as a cohesive album, then just make it a double album. Amnesiac deserves to be the band’s double LP. Way more worthy of being fat, bloated mess than Hail to the Thief, for example.
26. “How I Made My Millions” | No Surprises (CD 1) Single
– The best Radiohead is the Radiohead that makes me cry . This song pulls and tugs at my emotional strings. It’s like this song was specifically made to tug softly at my tiny, cold heart. The really lo-fi quality. Thom’s partner at the time working on the dishes in the background. Literally just Thom on piano playing a bunch of beautiful chords singing about once being a better person. The song is about a relationship and how they used to be in a better place but now it is just not. Seems to be a lot of fighting back and forth, but Thom ends it with a simple “let it fall.” It is like an eerie omen of what was to come later down in Yorke’s life.
Relationships are like waves. Things are constantly in flux. There’s peaks and then there’s lows. After a while maybe you’re just done with it all and just want things to fall as they will. If things work out, fine, but if they don’t, then so be it. Maybe the strained “let it fall” at the end is just him accepting his fate.
Or maybe it’s about how they made their millions writing sappy songs like this.
25. “Present Tense” | A Moon Shaped Pool
– What started out as a soft acoustic ballad went on to become a smooth groovy song with a bossa nova beat.
The evolution of this song has been fascinating. It has undergone many different iterations. It debuted as a soft acoustic number in 2009.
Thom Yorke debuts “Present Tense” at the 2009 Latitude Music Festival
The next instance of this song reappearing was in that same year, but this time with a full band. It was in Mexico City. The best recording of the audio is from outside the venue. So we don’t get to hear distinctly what’s going on.
“Present Tense” soundchecked outside of Foro Sol
What is common throughout all three versions is the melody and haunting vocals. That melody, paired with some of Thom’s best modern day lyrics and vocal melody is elevated even more on the album version. It is groovy and as the song picks up pace in the chorus it never once drops the ball until the very end. It comes right after “The Numbers” brilliantly maintaining the tempo that “The Numbers” had already started and everything leads up to the climactic moment when the choirs harmonize with Thom. The song settles in for a groove and the vocals release you to dance and let loose as Thom sings in the background that “in you, I’m lost.” It’s a song about being in the present tense with somebody, dancing in the foreground with that individual both lost in the sensual moves of one another.
24. “You and Whose Army?” | Amnesiac
– One of the cool things of watching this band live is the live performance of this song. At least during the King of Limbs tour, they would place a camera over Thom’s piano and zoom the fuck in on his eye whilst he played it. The big screens over the band members all focus in on the band during specific moments. During this particular moment, we have Thom’s solo eye just looking at over the crowd, personifying the questioning eye of the song. It was pretty cool imagery and it always reminded me of the famed TJ Eckleberg’s advertisement in The Great Gatsby. The one of the pair of eyes just watching over Long Island or wherever the fuck they would drive into town from to go do their debauchery. Except in this instance, it isn’t Thom looking over our debauchery, it is him laughing at our powerlessness.
23. “Kid A” | Kid A
– Another live monster. If you want the best rendition of this live, definitely check out the Berlin show they played a little bit before the actual drop of the album. It has some killer drums that almost sound as if they’re coming from a large marching band. Then there’s the harmonica parts towards the end. So good.
What makes that particular version of this song stand out is just how different it is from the actual song. What one would imagine is not an easy song to transcribe from the studio onto a live setting, becomes this maddening, pulsing thump of force becoming this chaotic, buzzing mess. Away is the creepy lullaby version from the album and in is this maddening, thumping power that makes your legs want to join in on the hectic energy around you.
22. “Where I End and You Begin” | Hail to the Thief
– I am not a fan of Hail to the Thief. As I previously mentioned in the “Cuttooth” blurb, I think it’s a fat bloated, messy album with some terrible songs. This song, though, is magic.
There’s something eerie about this song. It doesn’t have the immediate sinister that songs such as “Climbing Up the Walls” have. Instead, the fear looms from that synth in the background and the heavy reverb and echo in Thom’s voice. It’s some great dark synthwave that the band could have landed much better throughout many places on Hail to the Thief.
21. “Nude” | In Rainbows
– I will forever refer everyone to the San Francisco 1990’s version of this song.
It has so much emotional punch. Thom’s voice is frail. There’s something in there that is just breaking him down. It’s the presence of this person of whom he is singing this song to. With an added verse that didn’t make the final cut, this version of “Nude” is an entirely different beast from what ended up on In Rainbows.
While that version is really damn good, the final cut works much better with In Rainbows‘s themes and production. It is equally as fragile and soft. This time the fragility is a bit more muted and toned down. The emotional punch is still carried by the glossy In Rainbows production, but it is always toned down. It never lets itself loose or does it break free from its constraints and that works much better in a late 2000’s Radiohead album than would the late 90’s emotionality and big band sound of the earliest cut.
I’ve seen the band twice this year. Both times they have played “Nude,” and both times Thom has hit those notes towards the very end of the song and it feels nice to hear him sing these songs and not have his voice crack during it. It brought a smile across my face, as this once powerful band has comeback in full force ready to inspire me. I lost faith, but I am no longer the blind wanderer. I am born again, in an interstellar burst, a believer.