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Posted at 2:15 PM ET, 02/17/2011

Discographically speaking: Radiohead

By David Malitz

radioheadWhere will "The King of Limbs" slot into Radiohead's rankings? (Photo by Sebastian Edge.)

With the impending release of Radiohead’s eighth album, it seemed like a perfect time to break out our semi-regular feature in which we rank a band’s entire discography. It’s worth saying this up front: I am not the world’s biggest Radiohead fan. But that’s why it seemed like a good idea. We won’t spend too much time discussing each album since that’s been the main purpose of the rock-journalism-on-the-Internet for the the past 15 years, so...

7. “Pablo Honey” – 1993
There are only two things I really remember about this album: “Creep,” of course, and that “I wanna be wanna be wanna be Jim Morrison” lyric. But unlike most bands, Radiohead got the U2-aping out of their system early instead of working up to it. Respect.

6. “Hail To the Thief” – 2003
The Radiohead album that sounds most like a “Radiohead album,” which makes it the least interesting Radiohead album.

5. “Amnesiac” – 2001
Obsessive Radiohead fans would likely rank this a lot higher. The rest of us listen to “Kid A.”

4. “In Rainbows” – 2007
The first half of the album is borderline transcendent. The second half of the album... has five more songs.

3. “The Bends” – 1995
Too many perfect singles to rank this one any lower. There was no need to continue with the standard Brit-rock stuff after this. “My Iron Lung,” “Fake Plastic Trees” and “Just” closed the book.

2. “Kid A” – 2000
The hallmark of a classic -- it is the best possible snapshot of its era (the millennial tension of 2000) and still manages to sound completely ahead of its time. The only Radiohead album I listen to with any regularity but still can’t put it above...

1. “OK Computer” – 1997
Here’s a theory: For casual Radiohead fans, this is almost universally the top choice. For those dangerously obsessive Radiohead fans -- you know, the ones that make you not like Radiohead as much -- it’s almost always “Kid A.” Which kind of Radiohead fan are you?

By David Malitz  | February 17, 2011; 2:15 PM ET
Categories:  Discographically speaking  | Tags:  Radiohead  
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If you flip In Rainbows with Kid A, then your list would be mine as well. Kid A to me is half interesting, half boring. I skip the drone tracks on Kid A every time (title track, treefingers, motion picture), while even the national anthem is underdeveloped as a song. In Rainbows, on the other hand, has better songs overall and is a great listen straight through. Don't knock the 2nd half - reckoner, house of cards, and jigsaw are a great trilogy in their own right.

I think Kid A gets such high rankings thanks to the timing of its release (first album after OK Computer, radically new sound, etc). The nostalgia factor is strong. In Rainbows mostly got noticed for the "pay what you want" download distribution, and not the high quality of the songs themselves.

Posted by: Miles_Standish_Proud | February 18, 2011 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Pretty much agree. I guess I'd fall in the "obsessive" fan category, and I easily think OK Computer is the best. I'd also throw in the live album, which I'd probably rather listen to than either Pablo Honey or HTTT, and maybe Amnesiac too.

Posted by: agl132 | February 18, 2011 12:37 PM | Report abuse

The list seems just about right. I think your preference on #1 & #2 depends on how much Aphex Twin/Autechre you regularly listen to (ie, I'd put Kid A at 1). And I'd move up Hail to the Thief. Granted, it's the album most in need of editing, but the good stuff on it is better than In Rainbows and Amnesiac.

I'm still cold on In Rainbows, but part of that may be due to the excessive amount of "RETURN TO FORM" shouting by critics at the time.

Posted by: M__N | February 18, 2011 12:39 PM | Report abuse

No need to continue with standard brit-pop after the Bends, but unfortunately coldplay did.

Posted by: DC07 | February 18, 2011 2:09 PM | Report abuse

I am a serious Radiohead fan. I can tell you all about their musical influences, when and where you hear them on which albums, the context of each album, etc. I still rank "Ok Computer" above "Kid A." And I know that I'm not alone. I think your theory doesn't work.

Posted by: fhuisclos1944 | February 18, 2011 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, this is a good list. Although I might put In Rainbows at 3 and The Bends at 4. Hard to say though. So different, so good for different reasons. It makes it hard to rank their discography.

Posted by: WillyPGuts | February 19, 2011 2:12 PM | Report abuse

For me, The Bends is #1. But I enjoy listening to them all.

Posted by: Pedalada | February 20, 2011 10:18 AM | Report abuse

A very good list. I'd put "Kid A" at #1 because it's grown on me over the past year or two. I'd be more comfortable with "In Rainbows" at #4 if the album included "Go Slowly" over "Faust Arp." Radiohead have many incredible non-album tracks; an album with the best of these ("Killer Cars," "Talk Show Host," "These Are My Twisted Words") would rank solidly in the middle of this list.

Posted by: MartiniMan1961 | February 20, 2011 2:09 PM | Report abuse

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