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Radiohead - The Best Of

Radiohead, The Best Of

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

ACCORDING to various online posts, Radiohead aren’t really in favour of putting out a Best Of album. A user review on the HMV website includes a quote from frontman Thom Yorke as saying: “This is just EMI trying to make easy money. We haven’t really had any hits so what exactly is the purpose?”

While quotes guitarist Ed O’Brien on a Canadian TV station as saying [in February] that “we won’t be doing any promotion for that, obviously”.

Whether the band’s misgivings will do anything to dampen the enthusiasm for the first greatest hits collection of this seminal band’s work is doubtful, though. When they tried to give their most recent album, In Rainbows, away for free last year, fans still sent it to No.1 in the album charts when it was eventually made available for retail release.

Radiohead fans, it seems, are a fiercely loyal bunch… and deservedly so. Thom Yorke and co have seldom let them down in terms of quality and each new Radiohead release has been something worth getting excited by.

And so the chance to own a definitive collection of highlights on one LP is another temptation that’s difficult to resist, especially when you consider the quality of some of the very best tracks.

The highlights virtually pick themselves. Just is an anthemic album opener that kicks things off in rousing fashion, while Karma Police is just a terrific listen – the type of song you can never tire of. You have to admire its musical composition and those distinct Yorke vocals.

Creep, thankfully included in its explicit version, (“I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo, what the hell am I doing here?”) is an out-and-out classic and one of the band’s seminal offerings. I still remember hearing it for the first time while on a road trip holiday in America. The alternative radio station K-ROQ hailed it as a masterpiece and made it a mainstay of the airwaves. It was raw, gritty, confrontational and expertly appealed to musical sensibilities on both sides of the Atlantic. I couldn’t wait to buy it once I got home!

Another personal favourite is the beautiful High And Dry, one of the band’s more straightforward offerings, and a track that’s rich in melody, and vocal fluctuation. Again, it’s a song I fell in love with upon the very first listen and always find myself singing along with whenever the opportunity arises.

Street Spirit (Fade Out) is another great track, as is the melancholy but serenely beautiful Fake Plastic Trees – heartbreakingly simple, but hauntingly effective.

Radiohead’s musical diversity and refusal to become pigeon-holed at any time in their career is reflected in the choice of tracks assembled here. Mostly singles, but also the odd album favourite, there’s plenty to keep the diehard follower deliriously happy, and the newcomer utterly engaged.

Idioteque, yet another highlight, marks the sound of the band at their most avant-garde and electronic, as evidenced in the surprise change of direction that was the Kid A LP, while 2 + 2 = 5 is another classic taken from the excellent Hail To The Thief LP, and a return to more alt-rock values.

But really, there isn’t a bad selection among the 16 tracks available on the main CD. For the real purists, however, there’s a 2CD release that includes B-sides, rareties and the odd live track. It’s the better option of the two and makes this Best Of package really worth owning.

If you haven’t allowed Radiohead to enter your lives thus far, now’s the perfect time. Thom Yorke and co may think otherwise, but this Best Of release could bring them an even wider fanbase, whilst – admittedly – keeping the record company happy! For once, though, it’s worth it.

Download picks: Karma Police, High And Dry, No Surprises, Creep, Fake Plastic Trees, Street Spirit (Fade Out), Idioteque, 2 + 2 = 5, Everything In Its Right Place

Track listing:
Disc 1

  1. Just
  2. Paranoid Android
  3. Karma Police
  4. Creep [explicit]
  5. No Surprises
  6. High And Dry
  7. My Iron Lung
  8. Therere
  9. Lucky
  10. Fake Plastic Trees
  11. Idioteque
  12. 2 + 2 = 5
  13. Bends
  14. Pyramid Song
  15. Street Spirit (Fade Out)
  16. Everything In Its Right Place

Disc 2

  1. Airbag
  2. I Might Be Wrong
  3. Go To Sleep
  4. Let Down
  5. Planet Telex
  6. Exit Music (For A Film)
  7. National Anthem
  8. Knives Out
  9. Talk Show Host
  10. You
  11. Anyone Can Play Guitar
  12. How To Disappear Completely
  13. True Love Waits [live]