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Ranking: Every Radiohead Song from Worst to Best

on June 28, 2017, 10:00am
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A staff ranking of Radiohead’s nine albums isn’t the easiest activity to partake in. There are different eras in the band’s 24-year recording history that make it difficult to compare one album to the next. Inevitably, there will be disagreements, leading to punch-ups at weddings, sulking, and feeling like a real creep. When the dust settles, you can only hope that with a bit of reasoning and compromise that you’ve compiled the best order. The Fab Five of Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Colin Greenwood, Ed O’Brien, and Phil Selway have quite the track record.focu

Now imagine us ranking the songs. The top and bottom tiers were pretty evident (in our opinion), but how do you figure out where to place “Lewis (Mistreated)” and “Gagging Order” among their catalog of album tracks? The added “problem” of there being so many strong songs doesn’t help the matter. Despite the obstacles, we pulled it off: Radiohead’s 162 songs have been ranked.

Yes, this list includes the previously unreleased cuts from last week’s OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997-2017. No, it does not include songs that have not been officially released in completed studio form. No, it does not include different-sounding demos (“Thinking About You”) or alternate versions (the Amnesiac draft of “Morning Bell” notwithstanding). Yes, it does include some of the best music of the past 25 years. Please let us know your feelings below although I can practically hear you Radioheadz typing already. Hopefully, you found everything in its right place.

–Justin Gerber
Senior Contributor

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162. “Pop Is Dead”

“Pop Is Dead” single (1993)

Weak analogies and tales of doing “one final lot of coke to jack him off” atop bratty guitar didn’t do much to set the band apart from their contemporaries. Their worst single by a kilometre. –Justin Gerber
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161. “Supercollider”

“Supercollider” / “The Butcher” single (2011)

This scrap from The King of Limbs sessions was released as a single for Record Store Day in 2011 along with “The Butcher” and isn’t really able to establish itself within its own breezy melodies despite its lengthy effort to do so. –Sean Barry
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160. “Inside My Head”

“Creep” single (1992)

Recorded at the peak of the band’s fascination with generic angst, it’s all moody bass, vague anti-authoritarian lyrics, and little else. –Dan Caffrey
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159. “The Butcher”

“Supercollider” / “The Butcher” single (2011)

Level with “Supercollider” in terms of boredom and forgettability. –Sean Barry
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158. “Nothing Touches Me”

Pablo Honey [2009 Bonus Disc] (1991)

Despite a traffic-jammed organ and Colin Greenwood peppering his bass lines with eighth notes, the song gets sunk by the moodiness of Thom Yorke’s speak-singing. –Dan Caffrey
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157. “MK 2”

In Rainbows bonus disc (2007)

As the second “MK” interlude from In Rainbows’ second disc, “MK 2” serves well as an attention-grabbing precursor for “Last Flowers” seeing as it sounds a bit like a theremin symphony. Unfortunately, it kind of goes nowhere. –Sean Barry
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156. “Yes I Am”

“Creep” single (1992)

A Pablo Honey-era ditty with little to offer in way of melody or lyrics. A five-minute search for a catchy chorus that goes undiscovered. –Justin Gerber
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155. “Phillipa Chicken”

Pablo Honey [2009 Bonus Disc] (1991)

Yorke could be addressing war or he could be addressing love. Either way, the avian metaphor is heavyhanded. –Dan Caffrey
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154. “Faithless, the Wonder Boy”

“Anyone Can Play Guitar” single (1993)

A typical mopey song that resonates with teens in the maelstrom of puberty, but ceases to translate years later. Thom “can’t put the needle in,” in case you missed those lyrics repeated a thousand times. –Justin Gerber
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153. “Banana Co.”

“Street Spirit (Fade Out)” single (1996)

Off of 1994’s Itch EP, “Banana Co.” is silly and lackadaisical enough to be considered pop-rock parody. –Sean Barry
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152. “Paperbag Writer”

“There There” single (2003)

All the components for a great hit — minimal funk bass, anxious violins, subliminal political messages — without the structure of a hit to hold it together. Imagine if this tongue-in-cheek play on The Beatles’ standalone single resulted in a song as equally memorable. Keep writing, boys. –Nina Corcoran
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151. “Kinetic”

“Pyramid Song” single (2001)

Perhaps the band’s only uninteresting flirtation with jazz. Unlike other Amnesiac-era dances with Mingus, this one builds without ever climaxing. –Dan Caffrey
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150. “Prove Yourself”

Pablo Honey (1993)

Although Yorke’s suicidal thoughts are no laughing matter, the band’s first official single never manages to break free of its own self-pitying melodrama. –Dan Caffrey
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149. “Fast-Track”

“Pyramid Song” single (2001)

Here lies a stuttering loop that begins to get tired of its own repetition. Sure, it’s digestible filler, but it’s filler nonetheless, perhaps because Radiohead found it hard to one-up the song’s accompanying single. –Nina Corcoran
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148. “Feral”

The King of Limbs (2011)

An auto-pilot instrumental that slams the breaks on any momentum The King of Limbs had mustered up (not much). Their worst album track in the 21st century. Yes, their worst. –Justin Gerber
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147. “How Can You Be Sure?”

“Fake Plastic Trees” single (1995)

Bitch, bitch, bitch. More of Yorke’s musings about how everything sucks. Hungry, drunk, and broke don’t suit him as well as introspective weirdness. –Dan Caffrey
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146. “Ripcord”

Pablo Honey (1993)

Yorke would eventually sharpen his music-industry attacks into phrases more evocative than “soul destroyed with clever toys for little boys.” –Dan Caffrey
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145. “Killer Cars”

“High and Dry” single (1994)

At least the overly literal lyrics deal with automotive terror and not generic despair. But that doesn’t change the fact that they’re overly literal. –Dan Caffrey
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144. “Little by Little”

The King of Limbs (2011)

Comes off as little more than a lesser Amnesiac B-side. Bonus points for the entire band getting something to do on TKOL. Points deducted for doing nothing memorable. –Justin Gerber
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143. “I Can’t”

Pablo Honey (1993)

Of all the Pablo Honey tracks, “I Can’t” sounds the most at home in a coffeehouse. If it had been released three years later, it would have found its way onto the Friends soundtrack. –Dan Caffrey
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142. “Bishop’s Robes”

“Street Spirit (Fade Out)” single (1996)

A little too forceful in how sinister it’s trying to be. Radiohead functions best when the evil — whether it be religious, political, or scientific — is a little colder, a little more sterile. –Dan Caffrey
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141. “Trans-Atlantic Drawl”

“Pyramid Song” single (2001)

Like a bat out of a PS3 snowboarding game, “Drawl” has energy aplenty at the start. When the bottom falls out in the final minute, it should be transcendent, but ends up anticlimactic. –Justin Gerber
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140. “Where Bluebirds Fly”

“There There” single (2003)

Textured and conflicted like a lot of the band’s material from their Hail to The Thief era, but this sounds too much like the soundtrack to a boss level in an archaic video game. –Sean Barry
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139. “Vegetable”

Pablo Honey (1993)

Jonny Greenwood and Ed O’Brien could hold their own against the best grunge guitarists in the ’90s. Then again, Radiohead would go on to do grunge way better on The Bends. –Dan Caffrey
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138. “India Rubber”

“Fake Plastic Trees” single (1995)

A grunge-y guitar riff in the chorus and nice bass courtesy of the elder Greenwood. However, at the end of the day, it’s not a track that leaves one wondering why it was left off the album. –Justin Gerber
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137. “Stupid Car” (demo)

Drill EP (1992)

Another example of a car song that means exactly what you think it does. If it weren’t about a real-life auto accident, this could have been drolly funny, and thus an amusing — if minor — Pavement song. –Dan Caffrey
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136. “Meeting in the Aisle”

“Karma Police” single (1997)

A thuddish precursor to the electro soundscapes on Kid A, “Meeting In the Aisle” becomes a harmless, forgettable bit of entrance music, which is exactly what the band used it for on their 1998 tour. –Dan Caffrey
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135. “These Are My Twisted Words”

“These Are My Twisted Words” single (2009)

Radiohead released this standalone single independently back in 2009, presumedly because it was a bit too rock-oriented to fit on The King of Limbs. The krautrock beat jogs forward in a hypnotic fashion, but never quite finds whatever it is that it’s running towards. –Nina Corcoran
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134. “Morning Mr Magpie”

The King of Limbs (2011)

A solo, acoustic version of this song was introduced to the world in the Most Gigantic Lying Mouth of All Time short film collection years earlier. Best to remember that one. –Justin Gerber
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133. “I Want None of This”

Help!: A Day in the Life War Child compilation (2005)

“Take a lesson from me/ Don’t get stuck on a dream,” Yorke sings, casually laying out one of a dozen depressing lines in an otherwise musically dampened number. It’s an expansion of Hail to the Thief‘s piano ballads while scaling back towards the minimalist side of In Rainbows. –Nina Corcoran
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132. “Molasses”

“Street Spirit (Fade Out)” single (1996)

This B-side came out three years after Nirvana’s last album — which explains all the similarities. With the exception of an Indian-style interlude post-chorus, “Molasses” rides the downtempo side of ’90s grunge, sneering with a seductive hiss about genocide, starving waitresses, and a government that couldn’t care less about you. Hypnotic, if not exactly innovative. –Nina Corcoran
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131. “Coke Babies”

“Anyone Can Play Guitar” single (1993)

That Coldplay comparison exists for songs like this. “Coke Babies” rides somewhat of a shoegaze softness and ’90s alt-rock production, making for an easy listen that could work with Chris Martin replacing Thom Yorke. –Nina Corcoran
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130. “Harry Patch (In Memory Of)”

“Harry Patch (In Memory Of)” single (2009)

Written in tribute to World War I veteran Harry Patch, with all proceeds donated to charity. Really just Jonny and Thom here, offering up sweet orchestration on a “Good job! Good effort!” track. –Justin Gerber
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129. “Anyone Can Play Guitar”

Pablo Honey (1993)

Aptly enough, the song’s triple-axe attack has more snarl than Yorke’s criticism of Jim Morrison. A slightly better-than-average cut (but only slightly) from the band’s grungier days. –Dan Caffrey
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128. “Million Dollar Question”

“Creep” single (1992)

The punk-like pace is refreshing and makes up for yet another clunky criticism of the man, maaaan. –Dan Caffrey
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127. “Scatterbrain”

Hail to the Thief (2003)

The penultimate song on HTTT leans on the jangle of Radiohead’s earliest work, but meanders. Not every song has to soar, but can it at least get off the ground? –Justin Gerber
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126. “I Am Citizen Insane”

“Go to Sleep” single (2003)

A three-minute instrumental that merges the skipping heartbeat of Kid A with a hopefulness usually absent from the band’s music. Consider it a song to help you focus that’s just aimless enough to make its melody forgettable hours after hearing it. –Nina Corcoran
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125. “Melatonin”

“Paranoid Android” single (1997)

Like “Meeting in the Aisle”, it’s slight, but showed the band moving in a spacier direction. Bonus points for the cheap drone of the synths. –Dan Caffrey
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124. “Go Slowly”

In Rainbows bonus disc (2007)

Pleading and confessional, like an old man on his death bed. In Rainbows’ bonus disc provided many outstanding moments, but “Go Slowly” was comfortable in its solitude. –Sean Barry
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123. “Lewis (Mistreated)”

My Iron Lung EP (1994)

The chord progressions are borrowed from any number of other early-’90s acts, but there are so many shifts that “Lewis (Mistreated)” feels more like an alt-rock history lesson than a straight-up ripoff. (Fun fact: McKenzie Gerber (of Gerber & Gerber fame) and I used to jam with EiC Michael Roffman on this.) –Dan Caffrey
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122. “How Do You?”

Pablo Honey (1993)

Pablo Honey is storm-cloud sullen in its lyrical content, making “How Do You” stand out for its exuberance — courtesy of the distortion and tack piano, of course; not the words. –Dan Caffrey
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121. “Man of War”

OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997- 2017(2017)

It will always be “Big Boots” to me, and though it’s technically an OKC-era cut, it reads more Bends, doesn’t it? Surreal to hear that final refrain on proper release decades after it came to life. –Justin Gerber
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120. “I Am a Wicked Child”

“Go to Sleep” single (2003)

While Yorke’s busy singing a prayer to be a better child, Jonny Greenwood rolls out a meditative — if slightly snoozy — guitar lick fit for True Detective. Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without a reminder that God will break your heart: “He’s tugging at my arms and legs/ Like I was a marionette/ Send baby Jesus/ To radiate his lie.” –Nina Corcoran
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119. “A Reminder”

“Paranoid Android” single (1997)

Everything in life is a dream, or at least it sure can feel like it. This B-side appears after some airport announcements in French and the clamor of a crowd, layering reverb and lackadaisical guitar (a little too lackadaisical at times) until there’s a big enough pool for Yorke’s vocals to swim across with grace, giving he illusion of a lucid dream. –Nina Corcoran
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118. “Staircase”

“The Daily Mail” / “Staircase” single (2011)

The band’s King of Limbs: Live from the Basement session brought us this grooving and moody track that contains a purposefully understated and beautiful energy. It’s mercifully entrancing, if a touch unassuming. –Sean Barry
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117. “Glass Eyes”

A Moon Shaped Pool (2016)

radiohead moon shaped pool album Ranking: Every Radiohead Song from Worst to Best

A somewhat stirring, albeit minor, entry off Radiohead’s ninth LP. Yorke’s calling home to no one with an uncertainty of where he’s going, all atop musical ideas better explored on other Moon Shaped tracks. –Justin Gerber
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116. “The Amazing Sounds of Orgy”

“Pyramid Song” single (2001)

Tom Waits by way of Thom Yorke, “The Amazing Sounds of Orgy” (we’re guessing it refers to the sex gathering, not the industrial act) is the rare song that earns an overused music-critic adjective like “haunted” or “eerie.” We’ve probably used those words at other points in this list, so please forgive us. –Dan Caffrey
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115. “Dollars and Cents”

Amnesiac (2001)

The genius of Amnesiac rides on Colin Greenwood’s modest basslines. He keeps them simple so that no matter what’s added to it — tapped cymbals, wood block, almost nonexistent guitar — the song will still hook you right from its opening measures, which is especially true here. –Nina Corcoran
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114. “The Gloaming”

Hail to the Thief (2003)

“The Gloaming” thankfully loses some of its electronic chilliness in concert, transforming the sterility of its studio rendition into something as alive as the shadows described in the lyrics. –Dan Caffrey
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113. “Hunting Bears”

Amnesiac (2001)

Guitar and some looping? Some synths, maybe? Is it about humans hunting bears, or bears on the hunt? Whatever’s going on here, it sticks with you long past its short runtime. –Justin Gerber
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112. “I Promise”

OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997- 2017(2017)

Simple lyrics over a simple melody but never simplistic. The first taste of the relics the group dug up for their OKC reissue, “I Promise” is a love song that never becomes maudlin. Tough to find a spot on the record for it, but that’s OK Computer for you. –Justin Gerber
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111. “Thinking About You”

Pablo Honey (1993)

A rare moment of tenderness for Radiohead that chronicles a relationship torn apart by fame. And would you believe me if I said Yorke doesn’t judge either party, but sympathizes with the both of them? –Dan Caffrey
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110. “Pearly”

“Paranoid Android” single (1997)

Clangy, sexual, great overlapping vocals. One of the better B-sides in the arsenal, “Pearly” has a lot of snark and classic head-voiced Yorke: “Darling use me!” –Justin Gerber
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109. “You Never Wash Up After Yourself”

My Iron Lung EP (1994)

The porch-lounging scale suits bucolic lyrics that only become disturbing when you pay close enough attention to them. And even then, it’s hard to deny the pastoral beauty. –Dan Caffrey
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108. “Treefingers”

Kid A (2000)

Mindful and encompassing, Kid A’s interlude is a chance to catch your breath while still maintaining the magic. –Sean Barry
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107. “Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief”

A Moon Shaped Pool (2016)

radiohead moon shaped pool album Ranking: Every Radiohead Song from Worst to Best

Like the rest of A Moon Shaped Pool, it’s plenty gorgeous, even if the string interruption meanders juuust a tad. –Dan Caffrey
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106. “Lozenge of Love”

My Iron Lung EP (1994)

Quick-pick acoustic track on the strong-as-hell My Iron Lung EP. Another early indication of how good The Bends would be when compared to its predecessor. –Justin Gerber
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105. “You”

Pablo Honey (1993)

“You” has the good fortune of being the lead track to Pablo Honey, catching listeners when the aggressive squall feels fresh. Hell, even if it closed out the album, the three-way guitar acrobatics of Yorke, Greenwood, and O’Brien would still be impressive. –Dan Caffrey
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104. “Bloom”

The King of Limbs (2011)

The opening track off The King of Limbs may play even better live (see: most Radiohead songs). As it stands, it’s a frenetic bounce atop Colin Greenwood’s groove-laden basslines. –Justin Gerber

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103. “Punchdrunk Lovesick Singalong”

My Iron Lung EP (1994)

Rock-solid song about the old tale of love-gone-bad raised up by a momentum-shifting chorus. Climax is vintage Radiohead. –Justin Gerber
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102. “Present Tense”

A Moon Shaped Pool (2016)

radiohead moon shaped pool album Ranking: Every Radiohead Song from Worst to Best

Once again, ghost moans save the day, preventing one of A Moon Shaped Pool‘s most fragile tracks from becoming too fragile. –Dan Caffrey
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101. “Climbing Up the Walls”

OK Computer (1997)

Another dystopian howl backed by that slinking, distorted bass. It lolls and trudges defiantly. –Nina Corcoran
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100. “Morning Bell/Amnesiac”

Amnesiac (2001)

A callback to Kid A’s track of (almost) the same name, the band says they included this version as “a reoccurring dream.” More stripped down than its predecessor, and yet it contains the same sort of looping and terminal mindset that you would find on William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops. –Sean Barry
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99. “Blow Out”

Pablo Honey (1993)

For all of its hate, Pablo Honey deserves more attention for genuine gems like “Blow Out”. Cushioned guitar tone further explored on In Rainbows sets the mood for easy listening, quickly stepping out of the spotlight for one of the Jonny Greenwood’s best and earliest freakouts on guitar. –Nina Corcoran
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98. “House of Cards”

In Rainbows (2007)

Chilled out, romantic, and ultimately defeated; a quintessential Radiohead love song. –Sean Barry
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97. “The Trickster”

My Iron Lung EP (1994)

In their early days, Radiohead were first and foremost a guitar rock band. “The Trickster” sees them chug their way through a devilish bassline so that satanic chord progressions can stab its sides, creating a rock song that hints at what’s to come without deviating from traditional structure. –Nina Corcoran
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96. “Maquiladora”

“High and Dry” single (1994)

It feels strange to call a 1994 Radiohead B-side anthemic, but this is the closest the band would ever get to unapologetic stadium rock — the melody driven by Colin Greenwood’s bass, then bolstered by every burst of crunchy distortion, with some clean flourishes thrown in for good measure. Go ahead. Pump your fist. It’s allowed. Encouraged, even! –Dan Caffrey
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95. “Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors”

Amnesiac (2001)

No, that’s not a typo in your iTunes library; just an intentional error to reflect the mechanized idiosyncrasies of Amnesiac. Think of it as a computer trying to sound like a person. Or is it the other way around? –Dan Caffrey
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94. “Down Is the New Up”

In Rainbows bonus disc (2007)

Yorke’s singing adds an air of sultry intrigue to an otherwise dark number that opens up a window for fresh air at each chorus. Simplified breakdowns between verses prioritize space above complicated rhythms, creating a quintessential Radiohead groove that’s not terrifically difficult to swallow but is hard to write all the same. –Nina Corcoran
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93. “Sulk”

The Bends (1994)

The penultimate track on The Bends works because it accepts the melancholia that comes with life instead of trying to fight it. –Sean Barry
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92. “Decks Dark”

A Moon Shaped Pool (2016)

radiohead moon shaped pool album Ranking: Every Radiohead Song from Worst to Best

If Moon is Radiohead’s “breakup” album, here is a good place to search for clues. After a pleasant melody, the piano goes (decks) dark as the question is asked: “Have you had enough of me?” Effective. –Justin Gerber
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91. “Up on the Ladder”

In Rainbows bonus disc (2007)

Thom Yorke: Whovian? “I’m stuck in the Tardis/ Floating/ Trapped in hyperspace.” Simple beat with brooding guitar makes for a cool bonus track. Allons-y! –Justin Gerber
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90. “How I Made My Millions”

“No Surprises” single (1998)

The story goes that Yorke recorded this at his house as his partner was in the kitchen putting away the groceries. A beautiful piano ballad with a lovely refrain of “Let it fall”. –Justin Gerber
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89. “Backdrifts”

Hail to the Thief (2003)

Colin Greenwood cites this as the point where Radiohead finally figured out how to get all those technology boxes and electronic machines to talk to each other. With them finally in control, they mirror their inspiration — the time they were trapped on a bullet train in Japan during a snowstorm — with rounded beats and soft loops. –Nina Corcoran
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88. “MK 1”

In Rainbows bonus disc (2007)

You may scoff at us placing this minute-long instrumental so high on the list, but the key lies in Yorke’s lower register. When accompanying his head-voice, it becomes a tomb-dwelling response to the simple piano melody at the center of In Rainbows’ funereal final track, “Videotape”. –Dan Caffrey
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87. “(Nice Dream)”

The Bends (1994)

It’s clear that the narrator of “(Nice Dream)” knows that the idyllic fantasy in his head is just that: a fantasy. But we can’t blame him for wishing. The light-handed strumming and enchanting wind effects make us want to believe, too. –Dan Caffrey
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86. “The Numbers”

A Moon Shaped Pool (2016)

radiohead moon shaped pool album Ranking: Every Radiohead Song from Worst to Best

Like Beck on “Paper Tiger”, Radiohead uses classical orchestration as a buildup to a trip hop beat, which then gives way to even more strings at the end. Who knew the London Contemporary Orchestra could be this funky? –Dan Caffrey
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85. “4 Minute Warning”

In Rainbows bonus disc (2007)

Named for the British Government’s Cold War-era warning system that would alert British citizens of incoming Soviet missiles, the final send-off on In Rainbows’ bonus disc is a self-aware and quiet affair that presents an apocalyptic situation in the most peaceful way. –Sean Barry
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84. “Codex”

The King of Limbs (2011)

The King of Limbs’ sleeper track is muted and graceful, like a matured “Pyramid Song”. Yorke’s crooning finds company in the very welcoming and processional horn section. –Sean Barry
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83. “In Limbo”

Kid A (2000)

Upon the album’s release, “In Limbo” seemed to suggest that an inflated ego could blind you. Looking back at Kid A now, the song’s an accurate portrayal of how the sea of information online builds a false sense of superiority, allowing others to define themselves by the number of Twitter followers who favorite every idiotic joke. –Nina Corcoran
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82. “Desert Island Disk”

A Moon Shaped Pool (2016)

radiohead moon shaped pool album Ranking: Every Radiohead Song from Worst to Best

The obvious joke is that so many people would pick a Radiohead album as their Desert Island Disc. But joke or not, this song’s mixture of warm folksiness and close-encounter night sounds makes a strong case for taking A Moon Shaped Pool on your marooned adventure. –Dan Caffrey
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81. “Palo Alto”

“No Surprises” single (1998)

The cover of their fifth EP sums up this closer without directly stating so: “I have to lie in the middle of the floor completely motionless not daring to breathe.” Listen to the superficial street chatter and suppressed lifestyle of the future Yorke sings of. Combined with chunky guitar riffs, it builds towards someone on the verge of imploding but still manages to get by. –Nina Corcoran
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80. “Lull”

“Karma Police” single (1997)

By the time OK Computer rolled around, Radiohead had mastered the art of simplicity that sometimes eluded them on Pablo Honey. On “Lull”, the band finds confidence in minimalism, drawing from clean guitars and an even cleaner xylophone from Jonny Greenwood to craft … what else? A lullaby. –Dan Caffrey
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79. “Lurgee”

Pablo Honey (1993)

Radiohead rarely play Pablo songs, but this one was still popping up in the HTTT era and for good reason. It builds and builds until Jonny takes us away with that guitar. As per usual. –Justin Gerber
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78. “Last Flowers”

In Rainbows bonus disc (2007)

Yorke on the piano with a commanding, angry vocal. That bonus In Rainbows disc is better than at least one of their records. We leave it to you to judge which one. –Justin Gerber
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77. “Fitter Happier”

OK Computer (1997)

Radiohead finally lets a computer talk for them, and, in under two minutes, it sums up society’s crippling anxiety, fractured systematic rules, and what it feels like to be concerned but powerless. And to think, people still debate if this is filler — there’s nothing so ridiculously teenage and desperate. –Nina Corcoran
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76. “Nude”

In Rainbows (2007)

“You’ll go to Hell/ For what your dirty mind is thinking” explains the title. Long-gestating track that finally found a home on In Rainbows. Colin Greenwood is probably the MVP on that album. –Justin Gerber
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75. “Electioneering”

OK Computer (1997)

On an album full of scratchy guitar and splintering solos, “Electioneering” stretches those strings until they’re made of putty. It’s rock whipping you back and forth until the cymbals crashing in the chorus keep everything contained. –Nina Corcoran
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74. “Myxomatosis”

Hail to the Thief (2003)

There’s a scene in the animated adaptation of Watership Down where a rabbit envisions many of his friends plagued by myxomatosis, their blind forms piling up among the entrance to their warren. This HTTT gem conveys the same feeling. Sure, it grooves, but Colin Greenwood’s fuzz bass stays claustrophobic and inflammatory. –Dan Caffrey
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73. “Worrywort”

“Knives Out” single (2001)

Another could’ve-been video game song (but in a good way this time), this B-side plunks notes in a pool of oil so ripples wave outwards. The 8-bit-like sixteenth notes raise the question if they’re using a synth at all while beatbox percussion raises the question if this is the same Radiohead who wrote OK Computer. –Nina Corcoran
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72. “Lotus Flower”

The King of Limbs (2011)

Electronic dance music doesn’t need all the trips and tricks clubs suggest. It’s a down-tempo groove that urges you to find a way to move that’s all your own — and if you don’t feel like dancing, Yorke will teach you how. –Nina Corcoran
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71. “The Daily Mail”

“The Daily Mail” / “Staircase” single (2011)

Another gift from the Live from the Basement session, “The Daily Mail” lullabies listeners into a false sense of calm before all cacophonous hell breaks out. One of the most fun songs to come out of the King of Limbs era. –Sean Barry
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70. “Give Up the Ghost”

The King of Limbs (2011)

A much-needed break from electronic babbling on The King of Limbs. Acoustic guitar strums and looped vocals pleading not to be hurt form a bedtime number to keep you comforted. –Nina Corcoran
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69. “Fog”

“Knives Out” single (2001)

Seek out the live version on the COM LAG EP that features Yorke on piano, but this official version still glows … in the dark. “Some things will never wash away.” A beaut. –Justin Gerber
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68. “Sail to the Moon”

Hail to the Thief (2003)

Written for Yorke’s child Noah, “Sail to the Moon” takes form as a piano lullaby, shifting time signatures as it details the flood, Noah’s Ark, and what a future could hold for someone escaping sorrow. It’s all comforting until the final piano chords ascend upwards in unsettling fashion, inching as close to the glowing sphere as they can get. –Nina Corcoran
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67. “Stop Whispering”

Pablo Honey (1993)

One of the catchiest and sunniest tracks from Pablo Honey celebrates self-expression. An early and uncharacteristic example of fun optimism. –Sean Barry
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66. “Permanent Daylight”

My Iron Lung EP (1994)

The lyrics are indecipherable, but the music is loud and clear. Opens with guitar, adds rhythm section, tops it off with furious Greenwood guitar. –Justin Gerber
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65. “Gagging Order”

“Go to Sleep” single (2003)

One of Thom Yorke’s greatest tricks is making the sinister sound sweet, and there may be no finer example of this than “Gagging Order”. Is it about drugs? Censorship? An actual dead body? When the strumming and singing are so delicate, it doesn’t matter. –Dan Caffrey

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64. “Lift”

OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997- 2017(2017)

Of the three “new” tracks featured on the OKC reissue, “Lift” was the one most worthy of the wait. The <emOKNOTOK version is slower than its live bootlegs, but the roots remain. The soul of the piece is intact. It’s rather lifting, dontcha know? <em–Justin Gerber
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63. “Indentikit”

A Moon Shaped Pool (2016)

radiohead moon shaped pool album Ranking: Every Radiohead Song from Worst to Best

The choir swoops in so elegantly, it’s as if they’re being molded from the minimalist guitar line. Pure transmogrification. –Dan Caffrey
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62. “Bones”

The Bends (1994)

A perfect and discordant wake-up from The Bends’ sentimental first half, “Bones” is visceral and riff-heavy and as lively as the band’s ever been. –Sean Barry
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61. “Spectre”

“Spectre” single (2015)

The Bond song that absolutely should have been. Perhaps it was just Sam Smith’s star power that won him the slot, but “Spectre” has all the intrigue, drama, and introspection of the perfect Bond film, which, as it turns out, Spectre was not. At least Radiohead got their part right. –Sean Barry
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60. “Go to Sleep”

Hail to the Thief (2003)

Yorke’s strumming his acoustic guitar so aggressively you can hear his fingers being sliced open. “We don’t really want a monster/ Taking over” is the key takeaway here. It was 2003. Did you sympathize with him then? –Justin Gerber
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59. “Morning Bell”

Kid A (2000)

When paired with its more discordant alternate version on Amnesiac, “Morning Bell” is a case study on how to explore the many potential sides of a song, or, if we’re just looking at the lyrics, a divorce. The Kid A take sounds far more relaxed, the cooled-out keys and restrained drum rolls finding the narrator resigned as they look back on the haze of their failed marriage. Sadly, the kids still get cut in half. –Dan Caffrey
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58. “I Will”

Hail to the Thief (2003)

Yorke considers this “the angriest song [he’s] ever written,” a given considering the lyrics take inspiration from children who were killed in a bomb shelter during the first Gulf War. It’s supported by a fitting, bare-bones composition, one that’s far away from the alternate versions they tried to record during Kid A and Amnesiac sessions. –Nina Corcoran
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57. “Black Star”

The Bends (1994)

Deceiving with its sweet guitar melody, “Black Star” burns beneath. “What are we coming to? I just don’t know anymore?” “This is killing me!” Love that fade-in. –Justin Gerber
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56. “Bangers + Mash”

In Rainbows bonus disc (2007)

Mean, loud, and messy, this song would not have been at home on In Rainbows. At least this “banger” of a track made the bonus disc. Back into your soul… –Justin Gerber
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55. “A Punchup at a Wedding”

Hail to the Thief (2003)

Yorke’s response to a nasty concert review and music criticism in general also becomes a taunt directed at hypocrites and assholes all around. Colin Greenwood’s sauntering bass leads the jeers in a way that spells obvious and ultimate victory for the band. –Sean Barry
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54. “Planet Telex”

The Bends (1994)

The opener for The Bends is a rebirth. It’s daring and rebellious and finds the band entering into the forms that would shape them into what they are today. –Sean Barry
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53. “Ful Stop”

A Moon Shaped Pool (2016)

radiohead moon shaped pool album Ranking: Every Radiohead Song from Worst to Best

Any opportunity to see Philip Selway shine is a chance that must be taken. A sobering rhythm section steers “Ful Stop” through a series of rooms, from creepily flat reminders that “You really messed up everything” on through to aberrant guitar crosses to nearly-whispered warnings that “Truth will mess you up,” before it circles back around for a jazz brunch-styled breakdown. We see you, Phil, and we salute you. –Nina Corcoran
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52. “Exit Music (For a Film)”

OK Computer (1997)

Say hi to what’s possibly the only infernal bass drop out there. “Exit Music (For a Film)” is the foreboding acoustic number that quickly turns evil — because no film represents life if it lacks a dark ending. –Nina Corcoran
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51. “Jigsaw Falling into Place”

In Rainbows (2007)

The gag, of course, is that this takedown of drinking one’s self stupid becomes an ideal soundtrack to drinking one’s self stupid. When you’re inebriated, it’s hard to notice the ghostly chanting beneath the groovy yelping — and it’s that chanting that spells certain doom. –Dan Caffrey
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50. “The Bends”

The Bends (1994)

After a brief jaunt through a parade, the guitars come crashing down. Triumphant music trumps the downtrodden lyrics (what else is new?). Raucous Radiohead run rampant. –Justin Gerber
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49. “Faust Arp”

In Rainbows (2007)

A brief interlude on In Rainbows with rushed but controlled vocals from Yorke and a gorgeous string arrangement by the littlest Greenwood. A ballad break. –Justin Gerber
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48. “Separator”

The King of Limbs (2011)

The King of Limbs was a sporadic and uneven album that thankfully ended on a final song that found strength in its tranquility. –Sean Barry
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47. “Cuttooth”

“Knives Out” single (2001)

A burst of unbridled energy too happy to include on Amnesiac. Its controlled repetition could soundtrack road trips and newfound freedom, where belting “I don’t know why I feel so tongue-tied/ I don’t know why I feel so skinned alive” is a must because you’ve earned the right to happiness. –Nina Corcoran
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46. “We Suck Young Blood”

Hail to the Thief (2003)

One of Hail to the Thief’s creepiest numbers, it rocks back and forth with seasick-like handclaps and eerie backing vocals before a tempo change shoves the listener into a sprint. Consider it old-school Dracula’s revenge for all of our corny modern vampires (Sorry, True Blood). –Nina Corcoran
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45. “Polyethylene (Parts 1 & 2)”

“Paranoid Android” single (1997)

In 1997, this curious mashup covered the band’s three distinct sides in a mere four minutes. First, a delicate — if brief — acoustic ballad, followed by a blown-open rock song spaced out here and there by OKC-style blips. –Dan Caffrey
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44. “Videotape”

In Rainbows (2007)

There’s something about the lone and solemn piano chords and Yorke’s line about standing “at the pearly gates” at the beginning of “Videotape” that make death seem like a comfortable affair. The remainder of the song follows suit with percussion and vocalizations that recollect entering in and out of consciousness once and for all. –Sean Barry
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43. “Sit Down. Stand Up”

Hail to the Thief (2003)

Menacing as all get out and reminiscent of sentient technology that’s trying to understand the human world it’s just conquered, “Sit Down. Stand Up” is Radiohead’s best impression of a hostile robot takeover. Never has inclement weather sounded so dread-laden and unnatural. –Sean Barry
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42. “Life in a Glasshouse”

Amnesiac (2001)

Of course Radiohead would end their year-long journey into the wild and beat-heavy worlds of Kid A and Amnesiac with … a jazz number. With horns a’blarin and pianos a’pianoin’, the band’s fifth album comes to a cymbal-crashing conclusion. It’s a march towards something. Whether it’s death or something more worldly, one thing’s for sure: There’s someone listening in. –Justin Gerber
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41. “The Tourist”

OK Computer (1997)

Leaving the anxiety, sci-fi metaphors, and general paranoia found on the rest of OKC behind, the album’s final track serves as a simple request for the listener to slow down. Whether you’re sitting in a public square in France (as Jonny Greenwood was when he wrote it), floating through the cosmos (as you are when you listen to it), or spinning the latest Radiohead album (as you’re probably doing at this very moment), the beauty should always be taken in gradually, naturally, easily. Don’t stop until you hear that final bell. –Dan Caffrey
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40. “I Might Be Wrong”

Amnesiac (2001)

Driven by a wiry drop-D riff by Jonny Greenwood, “I Might Be Wrong” paces back and forth like a tiger in a zoo cage. Just when you think its slitted eye is looking the other way, it locks its vision on you once more when the riff comes back in the refrain. Nervy, focused, and probably a little dangerous. –Dan Caffrey
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39. “Bodysnatchers”

In Rainbows (2007)

At face value, it’s a tribute to Jack Finney’s alien invasion novel and its 1956 or 1978 film adaptions, only now it’s the 21st century and Thom Yorke is screaming for help while insanity overtakes him — though that doesn’t stop fans from pushing death-centric metaphors on the lyrics. The song’s strength comes not from Yorke’s fevered delivery, but the rhythm section and the ways in which it flexes its muscles. Collin Greenwood sprints ahead like he’s fearful of aliens himself, his hand flitting across the fretboard to create a manic pulse. Meanwhile, Phil Selway drums until you can practically hear the sweat dripping down the edge of his face, starting with cymbal tapping that soon begins to warp, sounding more fearful despite keeping a constant pace. It allows for the guitars to skid and crash against the rope he leaves behind them, saving the whole band during what can only be described as a mad dash for their lives. –Nina Corcoran
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38. “Bullet Proof…I Wish I Was”

The Bends (1994)

Arguably the most reassuring song on The Bends, it begins to rise with warmth and soul the farther along it goes. The hypnotic power of “Bullet Proof…I Wish I Was” comes from a result of the band’s own howls. Each instrument calls out like a lone animal searching for company, and by the time they overlap, that very loneliness begins to feel more welcome, more familiar, more bearable. The patience of those trickling guitar lines and Yorke’s determination to stuff as many o’s into “proof” pay off. By the time it wraps, it leaves you with a nest to curl up in — comforted or distraught, you decide — even though it starts with noisy scrapes and field sounds that suggest you’re wandered somewhere unbearably frigid. –Nina Corcoran
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37. “Subterranean Homesick Alien”

OK Computer (1997)

All the echoing of the Grand Canyon can’t compare to OK Computer’s cavernous number. “Subterranean Homesick Alien” drips each of its notes like a spoonful of honey, letting guitar lines and keys backstroke through an ocean of reverb in a beautiful ode to outer space and the ever-present feelings of nostalgia and longing. While Yorke is busy fantasizing about extraterrestrials abducting him, the others try to emulate the expansiveness of space and its shared qualities with missing home, often leaning on electric keyboards to nod to Bitches Brew. Capturing homesickness is relatively easy to do, but capturing the ways it moves inside you — lurches and sedatives alike — isn’t. –Nina Corcoran
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36. “Like Spinning Plates”

Amnesiac (2001)

Amnesiac’s penultimate track finds the band experimenting in noise and back masking to a surprisingly comforting effect. That’s not to say, though, that Yorke’s back-masked vocals in the first verse aren’t initially unsettling. Time feels manipulated and inescapable despite the distortions, and the balance of everything is thrown off. All considered, “Like Spinning Plates” is a very poignant title. –Sean Barry
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35. “Burn the Witch”

A Moon Shaped Pool (2016)

“Triumphant return” gets bandied about a lot in pop culture, but it earns its place here. A mostly Thom and Jonny affair, “Burn the Witch” features outstanding orchestration, Yorke’s falsetto atop falsetto, and an epic sound. “Epic sound.” That gets used far too often in music journalism, but the buck stops here! A powerful opener to LP9 with a great Wicker Man accompanying video to boot. –Justin Gerber
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34. “Talk Show Host”

“Street Spirit (Fade Out)” single (1996)

Radiohead’s foray into trip-hop resulted in one of their best B-sides, and its inclusion on the Romeo + Juliet soundtrack (remixed by Nellee Hooper) changed the militaristic challenge of the lyrics to a romantic one. Is Yorke waiting for a soldier or a lover? If the percussion wasn’t so deeply burrowed, if the bass wasn’t so groovy, that question would be far less ambiguous. –Dan Caffrey
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33. “Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box”

Amnesiac (2001)

Phil Selway’s kitchen-pot percussion (that’s not a metaphor) starts off the main character’s day at home, falsely comforted by domesticity. Jonny Greenwood’s sitar-sounding drone soon exposes the dread lurking underneath, and by the time our man is off to work — probably an office, probably reached by train — we’re as anxious about his 9-to-5 grind as he is, so nervous that we can no longer spell the names of our groceries correctly. –Dan Caffrey
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32. “Where I End and You Begin”

Hail to the Thief (2003)

It’s strange to imagine Radiohead chasing ’80s new wave, but Colin Greenwood and Philip Selway lean into their respective instruments with extra weight, drawing out their New Order influence. Their section takes over as the driving melody, stepping back for the occasional guitar chops. But the track’s real character is its glue: that theramin-like swelling. Disillusionment and uncertainty cast themselves over the song thanks to old ondes Martenot — which they occasionally bring on tour in compact form to perform it live — which stacks walls of electronic hums upwards to the sky. Fitting, given Yorke sings from the viewpoint of a disappointed god prepping his revenge on our destructive, lying human race. –Nina Corcoran
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31. “Optimistic”

Kid A (2000)

Radiohead didn’t release any singles off of Kid A, but one song that found early radio play was track six. “Optimistic” is the most “Radiohead” song on the album with its, you know, guitars, drums, and bass. Fortunately, it’s a corker, and while it doesn’t best represent the songs that surround it, “Optimistic” is a nice welcome mat to the weirdness within their fourth LP. Yorke’s fascination with dinosaurs would carry over into Hail to the Thief. –Justin Gerber
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30. “Daydreaming”

A Moon Shaped Pool (2016)

The second single off Radiohead’s long anticipated A Moon Shaped Pool sets the tone for something darker than “Burn The Witch” did while being less menacing in the process. In combination with its music video, the song seems to narrate Yorke’s split from his partner of 23 years in 2015; he wanders through empty parking lots, school libraries, and a family’s white-washed home with a look of fear and shock, as if he’s watching it all disappear before him. Maybe he is. That would explain why hearing his frantic acceptance of a crumbling life feels authentic enough to bring tears to the eyes as a deadpan “half my life” leaves his lips. –Nina Corcoran
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29. “Kid A”

Kid A (2000)

It’s easy to write off Kid A‘s title track as cold and creepy, but there’s a warmth to its ice-age chimes and Yorke’s heavily vocoded singing. Remember, the idea isn’t a human trying to sound like a computer, but a computer trying to sound like a human. It’s a bid for flesh-and-blood emotion, a bid for a genuine connection between the machine and the listener. Computers need lullabies, too. –Dan Caffrey
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28. “Just”

The Bends (1994)

Radiohead is a ’90s band. All the tricks and flairs of the trade are present on The Bends, and no track on that album encapsulates so many of that decade’s styles as “Just”. Say hello to the blissful guitar harmonies of alt-rock in each verse, to the opening grunge riffs, to the muted breakdown halfway through, to the prolonged squeak of that guitar solo, to the unnecessary-but-craved reprise. It’s a song bursting with rock, but it’s toned back just enough to save your aging parents from a headache. –Nina Corcoran
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27. “How to Disappear Completely”

Kid A (2000)

A sad, sad, sad song that teases a fall into maudlin treacle but refuses to sink to that level. We’re given an acoustic Yorke with surrounding strings and a strong desire to disappear. There is beauty in the darkness, even with the lament of “I’m not here/ This isn’t happening.” The music can save us, and it does here. If you take anything from this write-up, please remember that this was used in the Kevin Kline-weepie Life as a House. –Justin Gerber
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26. “Knives Out”

Amnesiac (2001)

There’s never been a more peaceful song about accepting death, and yet “Knives Out” is simultaneously all too gruesome in describing that very process, too. It’s guitar pop at its most serene, each player’s part holding hands with the other so that their palms just barely touch, showcasing a general airiness and unaffected drumming — which explains all the jazz covers out there. Dark reality told via simplified storytelling is Amnesiac in a nutshell. This illustrates that perfectly. “He’s not coming back/ His blood is frozen/ Still there is no point letting it go to waste,” Yorke sings. “So knives out/ Catch the mouse/ Squash his head/ Put him in the pot.” Saying goodbye has never tasted so … good? –Nina Corcoran
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25. “Karma Police”

OK Computer (1997)

“Karma Police” works best when you remember how funny its central concept is, this idea of a lawman who hauls you off to metaphysical jail if you’re being a dick. When combined with the baroque arrangement, it becomes an absurdist sci-fi dystopia populated by larger-than-life authority figures who are probably fat, loud, blustery, and pompous. In other words, it could be Radiohead’s version of The Wall if there were more songs surrounding it. –Dan Caffrey
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24. “My Iron Lung”

The Bends (1994)

Rarely has a band rejected their humble beginnings as quickly as Radiohead. “My Iron Lung” throws in one helluva dig at “Creep” with “This/This is our new song/ Just like the last one/ A total waste of time.” We disagree with his assessment (keep reading), but the first single off The Bends is strong and true. “My Iron Lung” effortlessly switches from control to chaos from verse to chorus. Angry and pesky, just like we like them. –Justin Gerber
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23. “No Surprises”

OK Computer (1997)

Within the Greenwoods’ minimal guitar work, Selway’s easy drumbeat, and a tinkling of childlike keys, Radiohead captures existential exhaustion all under four minutes. Yorke is daydreaming when he holds his hands up in front of his face for defense against the camera flashes and the sounds that life throws his way. By the end of it, with everyone fooling themselves, “No Surprises” ends up being one of Radiohead’s most instantly relatable songs since “Creep”. –Sean Barry
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22. “15 Step”

In Rainbows (2007)

The opening track off In Rainbows wastes no time winning listeners over. A compressed electronic beat pops with metallic snaps, soon joined in tandem by a slippery bassline and smooth guitars. As if mirroring the lyrics harping on love and deception, the live instrumentation and pre-recorded electronics mold warm tones with that cold undercurrent. Throughout the sweaty tempo comes bursts of encouragement via Oxford school children — the best use of ebullient kids cheering since …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead’s “Worlds Apart” — as if to boast mid-return that Radiohead’s still the same band that can juggle absurd quantities while making it sound easy. –Nina Corcoran
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21. “A Wolf at the Door”

Hail to the Thief (2003)

Slow arpeggios bring Hail to the Thief to a drawn-out, bloodied, and defeated end, but not before we’re feeling as threatened and creeped out as Yorke by whatever looms above or within. He sings with a tough and put-upon swagger before revealing the titular wolf and losing his goddamn mind after the first chorus. With “A Wolf at the Door” anticipating both societal and emotional collapse (or whichever comes first), it fits perfectly as the finale for an album so famously and politically cynical. –Sean Barry
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20. “Lucky”

OK Computer (1997)

Plane crashes aside, Yorke considers “Lucky” to be a happy song. Pay close attention, and you’ll agree with him, once you discover that the descending mellotron and unresolved chords represent not finality, but open-ended hope. Yes, this man or superhero or whatever he is has been in an accident. But he’s survived the accident and still has enough people who care about him to make salvation a very real possibility. We should all be so lucky. –Dan Caffrey
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19. “Creep”

Pablo Honey (1993)

Whether Radiohead intended it or not, “Creep” has become eerily prophetic. While the verses are straightforward, playable by anyone on guitar, the chorus drops in with the mechanized thud of Jonny Greenwood’s distortion, interrupting the — until that point, anyway — pleasant lyrics with anger, resentment, and heaviness. The band would commit a whole album’s worth of musical sabotage down the line with Kid A, claiming they had to destroy themselves to save their music. When reading that statement in Rolling Stone back in the early 2000s, I scoffed at how pretentious it sounded. But just because it’s pretentious doesn’t mean it’s false. And as “Creep” predicted all those years ago, the boys from Oxford were indeed telling the truth. –Dan Caffrey
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18. “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi”

In Rainbows (2007)

Even when they don’t change time signatures, Radiohead toy with their songs enough to make them sound spliced and spruced. “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” uses overlapped fingerpicking and soft, constant drumming to build towards a beautiful burst of anticipation released into the world. It’s the sound of a fish swimming as fast as it can to the surface of the sea, finally breaking into the air — a silenced, pause-like transition for such — for a handful of seconds, and then splashing back into the dark blue, tumbling downwards in a depressing, defeating way that reminds him he’s not meant to live up there. It’s their cushiest song in terms of tone, but the driving force underneath places you somewhere else altogether. And live, it transcends to a whole other level — but then again, what Radiohead song doesn’t? –Nina Corcoran
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17. “Let Down”

OK Computer (1997)

If the simplicities of “No Surprises” so well scored life’s exhaustions, “Let Down” does the same for all of life’s disappointments. And all this while becoming more and more of an exercise in catharsis with every listen. “And one day/ I am going to grow wings,” sings Yorke in the final verse, giving us one of the most encouraging and uplifting moments in the band’s history. “Let Down” is understanding and sympathetic and above all, a lifesaver. –Sean Barry
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16. “Reckoner”

In Rainbows (2007)

Radiohead fans were familiar with every song featured on In Rainbows well before the record came out. Scattered live performances of nine IR tracks whet the appetites, but the one nobody saw coming is one of Radiohead’s best songs. “Reckoner” is the band operating in full sync. There are Selway’s cymbal crashes, the guitar interplay, that bassline, and the strings at the conclusion as Yorke begs “Take me with you.” Indeed. –Justin Gerber
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15. “You and Whose Army?”

Amnesiac (2001)

This is Radiohead purely on the offensive. There are no complaints, no concerns, and no doubts. It’s a taunt from someone with absolutely nothing to lose. Assuring us that being lulled into a sense of security is a misstep, Yorke reminds us “You forget so easily” before calling his ghostly cavalry to arms among the band’s greatest crescendo. With its malevolence and indomitability, the song feels less like a battle and more like a haunting. –Sean Barry
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14. “2 + 2 = 5”

Hail to the Thief (2003)

George Orwell’s 1984 frightens most every high schooler that’s required to read it, and in “2 + 2 = 5”, Radiohead takes a slogan from that book for that exact reason and runs all the way to Dante’s Inferno with it. Lines about mindlessly obeying a leader and other brainwashing variants get spat at the listener or sung with shaky falsettos, Yorke giving his all while the band crafts a slippery path into the rest of their most art-centric record to date. Radiohead use a false start to build expectations for a relaxing number before shattering it in half, a jostling drum part sending dizzying guitars up into the air where they blacken the sky and turn the whole song into a deliciously evil treat. –Nina Corcoran

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13. “High and Dry”

The Bends (1994)

Thom Yorke famously hates this first single from The Bends for its softness, apparent lack of lyrical meaning, and mass popularity. But there’s something to be said for a Radiohead song that appeals to an older crowd, a song that also makes sense as a cover by Jamie Cullum. For it’s the poppier, more accessible side of the group that makes the experimentation all that more powerful, and vice versa. How many bands have songs that would fit in at an open-mic night and other songs that would fit in at a cloning plant or a spaceship landing? Not many. –Dan Caffrey
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12. “True Love Waits”

A Moon Shaped Pool (2016)

radiohead moon shaped pool album Ranking: Every Radiohead Song from Worst to Best

If we’re going to buy into the (very real) notion that love can be a monster, one that requires constant attention, nurturing, and junk food, we’re more likely to do so when it’s shrouded in wistfulness, not melancholy. Hence, the long-awaited studio version of “True Love Waits” shimmers with rainfall piano instead of mopey guitar, allowing Yorke to finally believe in the thing that could destroy him — especially if it leaves. –Dan Caffrey
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11. “Motion Picture Soundtrack”

Kid A (2000)

A perfect marriage of high pop and fatalism. There is a desperation to “Motion Picture Soundtrack” that you can find in Radiohead songs dating back to the Drill EP, but they don’t sound this majestic. This was a band that had become incomparable; they were simply Radiohead. If you’re not misty-eyed by the time the harps enter the frame, maybe you’ll lose it once the soprano begins crying out in the background? A perfect cap to their greatest album (stick around for the bonus track). –Justin Gerber
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10. “Pyramid Song”

Amnesiac (2001)

There was very little breathing room between the release of Kid A (October 2000) and
Amnesiac (June 2001). The mystery surrounding the release of the latter was almost as great as the former. Would this be a return to their roots, or would they continue to go down the path towards post-apocalyptic pop? The answer was a bit of both, and the hints came when their first single arrived.

“Pyramid Song” slides along Yorke’s slightly off-tempo piano, Selway’s always-reliable backbeat, and eerie orchestration arranged (as always) by Jonny Greenwood. Images of black-eyed angels and astral cars leave us wondering whether the protagonist is dreaming or headed towards an afterlife that may look like heaven, but is anything but. A great song to play for the kids before tucking them into bed at night. “There was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt.” –Justin Gerber
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09. “All I Need”

In Rainbows (2007)

Everything seemed to fall into place during In Rainbows. After the good-but-not-great initial reception of Hail to the Thief, the band fell into a groove during the recording sessions of what would become LP7. They sounded comfortable without sacrificing quality for complacency. A perfect example is what turns out to be the best song off the record.

Backed by a keyboard and a backbeat so simple a first-timer could pull it off, “All I Need” is about the inability to say goodbye. Instead of pity for Yorke (or someone very like him), we feel it for the person he desires. Most songs of this ilk come off as desperate, but the tables are turned here. “All I Need” is the anti-neckbeard song of their discography, and by the time we discover Yorke’s inability to process reality near the song’s conclusion, the track has become an all-timer. –Justin Gerber
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08. “Airbag”

OK Computer (1997)

That slide up the guitar neck. It’s the scratched note that makes “Airbag” so hard to skip, and the track that follows, and the track that follows that, and then the entirety ofOK Computer. Over the span of four minutes, Radiohead launch into one of rock’s darkest dances, dotting the bass and crossing the strings and making large cursive swirls out of guitars. In the late ’90s, turning distorted guitars and electronic drums into a combo still came as somewhat of a surprise, but it was the song’s record scratching homage to DJ Shadow that gave it such texture.

Yorke’s instrumental wails heighten those sounds, arguably because the song’s inspiration hits as close to home as it can. After he and his girlfriend got in a car accident in 1987, he walked away unscathed, and she suffered a damaged cervix. “Has an airbag saved my life? Nah … but I tell you something,” he wrote on Radiohead’s old site. “Every time you have a near accident, instead of just sighing and carrying on, you should pull over, get out of the car and run down the street screaming, ‘I’M BACK! I’M ALIVE! My life has started again today!’ In fact, you should do that every time you get out of a car. We’re just riding on those things – we’re not really in control of them.” –Nina Corcoran
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07. “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”

The Bends (1994)

Every part of this song, moving and otherwise, gets its point across. Its busy pace spites its rainy day atmosphere, and there among it all is Yorke’s lonesome crooning about the futility of life, and it’s all beautiful. Even the title predicts this floating urban existence that can’t seem to find solid footing. Not to mention it gives The Bends, undoubtedly the band’s more confident album at this point, the opportunity to end with a “fade out.”

The first time I heard “Street Spirit”, I was driving in my car on some rainy and forgettable day. I was a senior in high school. I wasn’t prepared for life after graduation at all, and yet there I was trying to convince myself of the opposite. I can’t say that I picked up on the song’s message instantly, but I remember the melancholic mood resonated deep within me, echoing back and forth well into my adulthood. I’m only now beginning to find bits and pieces of the futilities and existential crises that Radiohead so perfectly and functionally puts to tape here. –Sean Barry
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06. “The National Anthem”

Kid A (2000)

“The National Anthem” is so poignantly named because of its all-encompassing message that we’re all slowly tearing at the seams. It starts with the most iconic bass line of the 21st century. From there, Kid A’s wildest track grooves steadily while descending into a fantastic kind of madness full of a magnificent and maniacal brass section and Yorke playing the grand marshal who’s lost all control.

The track is so universal and celebratory and hellish. The brass section does brilliantly to mock and reflect all the nonsense of life’s fanfares while Yorke, Greenwood, and Selway hold on tight, keeping this parade of insanity in the public streets for all to see and join in. –Sean Barry
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05. “There There”

Hail to the Thief (2003)

For decades now, Radiohead have done little to hide their obsession with anxiety. It’s rooted in their lyrics, in their guitar playing, in their artwork. On Hail to the Thief‘s first single, they craft a song that mirrors a panic attack in and of itself with a theme that could very well set one off. As the song’s character goes walking through a forest, they feel an outside force pulling them elsewhere, presumably towards evil. Yorke repeats the refrain “Just ’cause you feel it/ Doesn’t mean it’s there” as if tempting the protagonist all the more, driving him insane. And yet when he admits there’s “always a siren singing you to shipwreck” and that “we are accidents waiting to happen,” it feels like someone watching from a cliffside while waves consume the protagonist in his errors.

It’s the sonic representation of losing sanity that lets “There There” shoot goosebumps down your neck. Both Philip Selway and Jonny Greenwood man tom-tom drums, staying on the song’s testy beat, putting up a front not too dissimilar from someone taking calm breaths when totally scared, so that the attention to pulse and rhythm takes inspiration from Can. When everything snaps in its final third, “There There” transitions into a work of art. It’s the sound of fear engulfing the protagonist, of guitars sprinting on your heels, of a band who made that wait worth it without ruining the sensation of being overwhelmed it creates on repeat listens. When people tell you to wait for a break in a song, where everything changes and your mind gets flooded with sound, it should strive to be as effective as this. –Nina Corcoran
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04. “Fake Plastic Trees”

The Bends (1994)

Radiohead is for the exhausted, the heartbroken, and the world-weary. This became very clear very early on in the band’s career on the first half of The Bends in the form of “Fake Plastic Trees”, a song that mourns the loss of our authenticity in the form of a love story. And yet there is no happy ending; there’s only tragic self-realization and exhaustion. And as much as we live to deny it, in those final moments, that’s life itself.

Even still, there’s hope. There’s happiness and ascension and escape, and it all comes briefly before the final chorus breaks in one of the most powerful moments in rock and roll history. Yorke’s found his dream girl, and he wishes to God she’s everything he’s wanted, but he can’t believe it and craves escape. This moment of realization is perfectly (and I mean perfectly) scored by Greenwood’s soaring guitar solo that breaks through the glass ceiling and reaches the heavens. It’s a moment that evokes chills and tears from me every single time. Never has there been a more perfect song about heartbreak, and there likely never will be. “Fake Plastic Trees” is it. –Sean Barry
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03. “Everything in Its Right Place”

Kid A (2000)

Three years had passed since OK Computer. Whisperings of a new direction surrounded the band. In October 2000, the mysterious Kid A finally arrives, and what statement would they make to kick things off? “Yesterday I woke up sucking on a lemon.” “There are two voices in my head.” “Everything in its right place.”

Detached and discombobulated, “Everything in Its Right Place” has become the band’s go-to closer for live sets. Perhaps it’s that relentless, soulless pulse that permeates the track, calling the crowd to arms. Whatever it is, the band’s statement was as clear today as it was around the turn of the century: this is who we are now. Expect the unexpected. A bold statement and an unforgettable track. –Justin Gerber
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02. “Paranoid Android”

OK Computer (1997)

When anyone questions Radiohead’s ability to lose their minds, show them “Paranoid Android”. What starts off sounding like a percussive-tinted rock song with wood block, cabasa, and vibraslap starts rattling in its 4/4 time signature, morphing and rocketing around like a firework with a broken fuse. Modeled after “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”, it takes on a multi-part song structure, originally being written as a 14-minute sprawler that included organ.

With some sharp editing scissors, they trimmed down the hustling number that makes OK Computer so enjoyable to dive into from start to finish, losing the humorous tone and keeping only the titular joke (Marvin the Paranoid Android from Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy served as inspiration) to pursue something darker. Even lines that could come from a high schooler’s notebook — “Ambition makes you look pretty ugly,” “I may be paranoid/ But not an android,” and “The yuppies networking/ The panic, the vomit” — sound best served with Yorke’s full-blown sass, a tongue lodged in their cheek so deep that it’s crass.

All that art rock, proggy goodness pays off when they switch to A minor and Jonny Greenwood gives the performance of a lifetime. His guitar squeals near the top of the neck, working his fingers to give a melodic, distorted solo that teases listeners by cutting to vocal harmonies shortly after. All hope seems lost, as if the song and players exhausted itself, but then Greenwood returns. It reignites itself for one last wild, guitar-wielding rendezvous as Greenwood gives you every reason to practice your air guitar, where everything sounds as if it’s burning down, even metal itself, but don’t worry! You’re safe. God loves his children. –Nina Corcoran
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01. “Idioteque”

Kid A (2000)

Many fans have interpreted “Idioteque” to be about climate change. They’re not wrong, necessarily, but they’re not exactly right either. Written in the cut, copy, and paste style that dominates the words on Kid A, there’s simply not a linear narrative to follow. It’s more interested in tone than concrete explanation. But does that even matter? Not in the slightest. It’s the song’s transformative properties — its open-endedness and near constant evolution — that allow it to comment on the most complex of topics.

Because climate change doesn’t have a linear narrative either. It has a direct cause and effect (manmade forces have severely altered the planet for the worse), but there are too many tributaries along the way, too many ecologically destructive tangents that could never be summed up in a five-minute rock song. So Radiohead never bothers to try, focusing instead on the complex lineage of computer music and how they figure into that journey.

Who knows what the band was preoccupied with when they pieced together “Idioteque”, so long as it could be a prism for whatever’s preoccupying the rest of us. As humans, sometimes, that’s all you can do: Shut up and focus on the thing you’re good at. And if you’re good enough at it, maybe you’ll end up speaking to something extraordinary, something big, something mega, something copia, something capacia, something cachunga .Or, even better, something scary as hell. The ice age could be literal. It could be metaphorical. It could be a random phrase. What is it to you? That’s what matters. –Dan Caffrey

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