7. Pablo Honey (1993)
Pablo Honey, Radiohead's first album, routinely gets knocked as their worst. Really, though, its middling reputation comes partially due to circumstance. It preceded one of the most fertile creative runs in rock history; few albums wouldn't pale in comparison. Pablo Honey also suffered from poor timing. Grunge was peaking when it came out in '93. Its alterna-rock pose, and especially its ubiquitous single "Creep," drew plenty of unflattering comparisons.
And Pablo Honey is not without flaws. Radiohead's identity was still malleable at the time. Their influences -- U2, Scott Walker, the Smiths, -- push through into pastiche territory at times. The self-pitying lyrics sound weirdly naïve next to the cynicism of their later material. Pablo Honey also suffers from inconsistent songwriting. Its second half is noticeably less well-developed than its first -- the same problem The King Of Limbs would suffer from 18 years later.
But despite its adolescent character, Pablo Honey remains a charming and occasionally brilliant rock album. Their youth brought vigor as well as naïveté; Thom Yorke belts out his lines with such force that his more recent recordings sound thin by comparison. Overplayed though it is, "Creep" remains one of Radiohead's finest hours -- Yorke's vocal crescendo in the bridge still raises goosebumps. "Anyone Can Play Guitar," meanwhile, foreshadows the apocalyptic themes that would color the band's coming creative storm: "And if the world does turn / and if London burns / I'll be standing on the beach with my guitar."