It’s almost criminal that I shrugged off Radiohead’s artistic brilliance for most of my life – I’m a Muse fan through and through, and there was always an animosity between the bands, so I never gave Radiohead the time of day they deserved. As I get older, and write some songs of my own, I’ve started to really appreciate the artistic genius that is this powerhouse of a band.
I still have a long way to go with my listening, though, and there are only four albums currently that I’d choose to listen to – “The Bends” and “Kid A” are great (the latter especially is getting better each time), but “OK Computer” and “In Rainbows” are two of my favourite albums of all time.
If I had to pick a favourite between the two, I’d probably go with “OK Computer”. But “In Rainbows” is probably my favourite. Actually, “OK Computer” is the best. Aargh! I can’t choose!
Let’s say “OK Computer” is the best for now, and I’ll try and rank these amazing songs from least good to best. You can also check out some of my other music lists:
12 – Fitter Happier
Well … this one is odd.
Coming straight after “Karma Police”, this weird synthetic Steven Hawking-esque voice talks over some equally strange electronic noise for about 2 minutes. This is like some “Revolution 9” levels of Avant-Garde, and it almost completely kills the pace of the album.
11 – Subterranean Homesick Alien
I think the first thing that has to be said is that there is a colossal jump up in quality from “Fitter Happier”, and all of the songs in “Good” could have been in “Great” on another day – that’s the level of consistency we’re dealing with on this album.
“Subterranean Homesick Alien” easily wins the accolade for strangest title on the record, and I particularly like how this track aims to create a sonic landscape above anything else. Other than the cool alien vibe, though, there aren’t many memorable aspects to this track.
10 – Electioneering
When I first listened to this album, this was easily one of my favourites. It’s up there as one of the rockiest of the bunch, which immediately made it stand out from the other weird tracks.
As I listen to this album more, “Electioneering” starts creeping down to the bottom of my list. The funny thing is, it’s still a really good song – it’s just the other originally “weird” songs have grown on me a lot more than this has.
9 – Lucky
The second to last song on the album, and it’s a bit more dreary than some of the others – perhaps that’s why I’ve ranked it so low. It has a similar vibe to “The Tourist”, but that track does a much better job in my opinion.
This is still a really good song, though, and I had a rough time putting down in “Good”. It will probably be in “Great” by the end of the week at this rate, so take this ranking with a pinch of salt.
8 – Airbag
As the intro track to the whole thing, there’s an argument to be made that it should be way higher up my list. It kicks off one of the most iconic albums of all time, and surely such a well-revered album would have one of the all-time best openers?
Strangely enough, “Airbag” has never been a true stand-out to me. It definitely gets my respect for being such a great opener, but this is never a track that I would go back to for a quick re-listen (unless I was listening to the whole album, of course). Still, this is a really good rocker and it thoroughly deserves its place in the “Great” tier.
7 – Let Down
There’s a large portion of Radiohead fans that absolutely love this track, and a lot would even go as far as saying this is their favourite on the album.
I do really like the contrast this has from the rest of the record, and perhaps the sudden shift to a happier (ish) track is why most fans hold this in such high regard. This isn’t ground-breaking stuff, though, so it was never going to rank that highly on my list.
6 – Exit Music (For a Film)
A song that gets better with each listen, it won’t be long until “Exit Music (For a Film)” slowly edges up my ranking into the “Amazing” tier.
I think I remember this track being used brilliantly in an episode of “Black Mirror” (hey, there’s a ranking list I could do!), and I thought the intense build-up to satisfying pay-off worked really well in that episode, and it’s definitely a highlight on the album itself.
5 – Climbing Up the Walls
Of all the Radiohead songs on all of their fantastic albums, “Climbing Up the Walls” has to be the most underrated of the bunch.
There’s an immensely dark vibe and deathly aura whenever this track plays, and I love every second of it. I find the chorus to be infuriatingly catchy, and it shocked me just how great this “filler” track was compared to some of the other more well-known tracks.
4 – The Tourist
A fantastic and melancholy album closer, “The Tourist” does an excellent job wrapping up all of the musical ideas whilst simultaneously providing a satisfying and beautifully arranged finale to the album.
One of the nice details I spotted is that the story of this album seems to be a cyclical one – “The Tourist” describes a horrible accident, and “Airbag” is the sort of aftermath of this tale (a random detail, I know, but I thought it was a nice touch).
3 – No Surprises
Now we’ve reached the top 3 tracks on the album – the three tracks that stand head and shoulders above the others, and make “OK Computer” the masterpiece that it is.
Straight away when the ethereal guitar part kicks in, you know you’re listening to a classic. Couple the brilliant instrumentation with Thom Yorke’s exceptional vocals and lyrics, and you get a truly amazing track that I keep coming back to.
2 – Paranoid Android
If you have this at the top spot of your rankings, I wouldn’t be able to argue with you. There’s a reason many consider this to be the band’s Magnum Opus, and I have a feeling it will be a track that never truly leaves the public consciousness.
“Through-Composed” much like Bohemian Rhapsody or Knights of Cydonia (this track is sometimes referred to as the “Bohemian Rhapsody of the new generation”), the songwriting brilliance of the entire band has never been more apparent than on this track.
Objectively, this is probably the best track, but there’s one more I like just a tad more …
1 – Karma Police
It was always going to be tricky separating the top two tracks – “Paranoid Android” and “Karma Police” are my Top 2 Radiohead songs ever, but I think the latter just edges it out as my favourite of them all.
The song starts innocently enough, with some wonderful melodies and lyrics, but when the bridge kicks in I always get goosebumps. The mix suddenly opens up, the sonic landscape becomes a lot more spacious, and it always blows my mind how they managed to do it so seamlessly. The best song on the album, Radiohead’s best song ever, and one of my favourite tracks of all time.
Aaaaaaaand that’s my list. There’s one other incredible Radiohead album I want to cover, but until then you should check out my most recent blog posts:
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