I’ve become quite the Radiohead fan over lockdown, and my love and appreciation of this band’s huge variety of work has grown bit by bit each day. I still have a long way to go with my listening – and there are still a fair number of songs that have yet to grow on me – but I thought it would be interesting to do a ranking of their 9 studio albums. There’s a good chance that this will change drastically over the coming months and years, but I sort of see this as a cool time capsule to look back on and laugh.
Perhaps controversially, I find the entirety or Radiohead’s catalogue to be a bit hit-or-miss. How would I rank all of their albums?
You can check out some of my other lists below, including a couple of song rankings on “In Rainbows” and “OK Computer”:
9 – Pablo Honey
- Best – Creep
- Worst – Stop Whispering
- Underrated Gem – Prove Yourself
I had a bit of a hard time choosing my least favourite Radiohead album – after all, “Pablo Honey” is the album that kickstarted it all, and any record with “Creep” on it deserves some plaudits, surely?
Other than the titan of a lead single, there isn’t much to shout about – this is a really bland and by-the-books album from any band, let alone one of the finest bands of all time. It’s the fact that you know Radiohead can do so much better that lets this down in retrospect, and I’m glad their future albums were a bit more interesting and experimental.
8 – The King of Limbs
- Best – Lotus Flower
- Worst – Little By Little
- Underrated Gem – Separator
“The King of Limbs” got a lot of backlash on its release, which was odd for a Radiohead album – everything they did since “Pablo Honey” was the best thing since sliced bread (so I’m told), so I think the fandom was slightly shocked when we got a mediocre album.
The band have since said this was a transitional album, and I can definitely see that – it isn’t quite as polished and refined as the others, and the musical ideas here are done a lot better almost everywhere else. There are still enough decent tracks, like “Lotus Flower” and “Separator”, to keep it above their debut, but this is still far from a good Radiohead album.
7 – Hail To the Thief
- Best – 2+2=5
- Worst – The Gloaming
- Underrated Gem – Punch Up At a Wedding
I get the feeling my next couple of album opinions are going to be the most controversial – everyone has “Pablo Honey” and “The King of Limbs” at the bottom, but the middle of the pack is where it gets contentious.
There are a lot of Radiohead fans who love “Hail To the Thief”, but I’m not one of them. It’s the sheer number of so-so tracks on here, like “The Gloaming”, that drag it down to the “OK” tier.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few bangers, though, and there are a few tracks that elevate this from the “Meh” into a fairly decent album – “Myxomatosis” and “Punch Up At a Wedding” are nice underrated tracks, and the opener “2+2=5” is the clear stand-out of the record.
6 – Amnesiac
- Best – Pyramid Song
- Worst – Pulk/Pull Revolving Door
- Underrated Gem – Knives Out / Life In a Glasshouse
Apparently, “Amnesiac” was just essentially an album full of tracks from the “Kid A” sessions that didn’t make the cut … What the hell?!? It’s crazy to me that they decided to pass up on some of these gems – especially “Pyramid Song”, one of Radiohead’s masterpieces.
“Amnesiac” was almost good, but not quite. There are underrated gems like “Knives Out” and “Life In a Glasshouse” that make sure this isn’t a completely dreary listen, but other tracks like “Pulk/Pull Revolving Door” just drag the whole thing down for me.
5 – A Moon Shaped Pool
- Best – Burn The Witch
- Worst – Tinker Tailor (etc.)
- Underrated Gem – Decks Dark
We have a big jump up in quality from now on – the bottom four albums are outings that I wouldn’t choose to re-listen to, but the other five albums in Radiohead’s discography are some of the most extraordinary alternative albums around.
The opening run of songs from “Burn The Witch” to “Daydreaming” to “Decks Dark” (an underrated masterpiece by the way) is a phenomenal start to an album, and the last track “True Love Waits” is one of the most sombre tracks I’ve ever heard.
It’s the middle stretch of songs that keep me from putting this album any higher – they’re still decent songs, well made and produced, but it’s really just the first three tracks that stand out for me whenever I give this album a listen.
4 – The Bends
- Best – Street Spirit (Fade Out)
- Worst – Bullet Proof … I Wish I Was
- Underrated Gem – Planet Telex
I’ve always loved “The Bends” – after all, it was the album that made people start to pay attention to this niche English rock band, and the classics within the album’s tracklist speak for themselves.
The opening tracks “Planet Telex” and “The Bends” deserve more love, and the sheer number of bangers – “High and Dry”, “Street Spirit”, “Just”, “My Iron Lung” and “Fake Plastic Trees” – have cemented this album into rock music folklore.
They’re not all zingers, though, and a couple of tracks like “(Nice Dream)” and “Bullet Proof … I Wish I Was” just stop this from getting into the “Amazing” tier.
3 – Kid A
- Best – Idioteque
- Worst – Treefingers
- Underrated Gem – Kid A
I’m pretty sure every Radiohead ranking has the same bottom two and same top three, and I’m not going to go against the grain for this one.
“Kid A” is the definition of “Amazing”, as I was left amazed and astounded by the musical magic on display throughout this genre-bending masterpiece. Coming straight after “OK Computer”, it must have been incredibly jarring hearing “Everything In It’s Right Place” as a Radiohead fan for the first time – but that was just the start of an extraordinarily diverse tracklist.
“The National Anthem” and “How To Disappear Completely” are some amazing tracks to kick things off, the latter being up there as one of the band’s best, and even the title track is quite underrated. My favourite track has to be the nightmarish-synth track “Idioteque”, which has been a favourite of mine for as long as I can remember.
“Kid A” is close to being an all-time great, but there are a couple of tracks like “Treefingers” and “In Limbo” that don’t do anything for me; and also, I didn’t want to put this album in the same league as two of my favourite albums ever (a little petty maybe).
2 – In Rainbows
- Best – Weird Fishes/ Arpeggi
- Worst – Faust Arp
- Underrated Gem – Nude
For the longest time, “In Rainbows” was my favourite Radiohead album, without question. It has some of the most gorgeous production and instrumentation I’ve ever heard, and the power of its music has only grown on me in time.
There’s really only one track that I’m not that into – “Faust Arp” – but even then it’s not that bad (but enough to put this album 2nd on my list). The opening run from “15 Step” to “Bodysnatchers” to “Nude” to “Weird Fishes/ Arpeggi” rivals Muse’s “Black Holes and Revelations” for greatest four-song opening to an album ever, and that alone puts this in the highest tier.
Some of the later tracks like “Reckoner” and “All I Need” have also grown on me, and just in case the album was starting to drag Radiohead decided to include “Jigsaw Falling Into Place”, a bat-shit crazy affair that injects an unshakable energy into an already stellar album.
I don’t quite believe it myself that Radiohead managed to create an album better than this, but that just shows their immense quality.
1 – OK Computer
- Best – Karma Police
- Worst – Fitter Happier (duh)
- Underrated Gem – Climbing Up the Walls
It was a complete toss-up whether “In Rainbows” or “OK Computer” got the top spot on my list, but I think the consistency of this seminal ’90s alternative rock classic is what sets it apart – and it’s the album gave Radiohead the recognition they deserved.
If you exclude “Fitter Happier” (since it is a weird interlude track anyway), every track on here is a banger. “Karma Police” and “Paranoid Android” are obvious stand-outs, and two of my favourite songs of all time, but even lesser known ones like “Climbing Up the Walls” and “The Tourist” are sensational additions.
“Ok Computer” trumps “In Rainbows” with its consistency, as even “filler” tracks like “Subterranean Homesick Alien” and “Electioneering” do the job and create their own unique sonic atmosphere; that’s the key word for this album – atmospheric. You get drawn into each song, and that’s why it’s gone down as my favourite Radiohead album of them all.
Aaaaaaaaand that’s my list. You can check out some of my latest blog posts below:
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