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"What the hell am I doing here?"

"You are
The sun and moon
And stars are you
And I could never run away
From you."
"You"
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Pablo Honey, released in 1993, is the debut studio album by English Alternative Rock group Radiohead.

Coming out nearly a decade after the band's initial formation as On a Friday in 1985 (owing to the fact that it took 6 years for the band to snag a record deal), it stands as perhaps one of the most conspicuous cases of Early Installment Weirdness by a British alternative band since Depeche Mode put out Speak & Spell. Rather than being a melancholic, experimental effort commenting on sociopersonal decay, economic malaise, and/or political corruption, Pablo Honey is an introspective affair that wears its grunge and alt-rock influences on its sleeve — and across the whole damn shirt for that matter.

Pablo Honey was supported by three singles: "Creep", "Anyone Can Play Guitar", and "Stop Whispering". Of these three, "Creep" acted as a brief Breakthrough Hit for Radiohead, catapulting them into the mainstream and by Thom's admission fueling the sheer egotism the band suffered from while promoting the album.

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Tracklist:

  1. "You" (3:29)
  2. "Creep" (3:56)
  3. "How Do You?" (2:12)
  4. "Stop Whispering" (5:26)
  5. "Thinking About You" (2:41)
  6. "Anyone Can Play Guitar" (3:38)
  7. "Ripcord" (3:10)
  8. "Vegetable" (3:13)
  9. "Prove Yourself" (2:25)
  10. "I Can't" (4:13)
  11. "Lurgee" (3:08)
  12. "Blow Out" (4:40)

Here we are, with our troping and confusion:

  • Album Title Drop: A barely audible one appears in the song "How Do You?"— the album was named after part of a Prank Call by the comedy group The Jerky Boys, and the relevant quote ("Pablo, honey? Please come to Florida!") appears as Spoken Word in Music near the end of the song.
  • Audience Participation Song: "Creep" has been a rather big one on the occasions Radiohead have performed it, largely owing to its popularity.
  • Captain Ersatz: Thom Yorke was a dead-ringer for Kurt Cobain during the era surrounding this album, with bleached-blonde mop-top hair and an "acidic rebel" image consciously lifted from the reluctant Seattle zeitgeist-leader.
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  • Careful with That Axe: In this memorable live performance of "Anyone Can Play Guitar," at the second verse Thom takes the "anywhere" in the "and I don't see no confusion anywhere" line and screams it, before just violently screaming at the camera. The zooms on his face don't help.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: "Thinking About You" revolves around loneliness and longing for someone who is gone, with two of its verses outright making reference to the narrator "playing with [themselves]" and seeing their special someone in bed.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: This is probably the weirdest album Radiohead ever put out in that it's not weird at all; likewise for Drill, the 1992 EP before it. The only song on Pablo Honey that bears a resemblance to what Radiohead would become better known for is the closing track, "Blow Out".
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: To this day the album has no Parental Advisory sticker on it, despite being widely distributed AND bearing an incredibly famous and explicit lead single.
  • Grunge: Compared to the prog-lite alternative rock of Radiohead's later output, Pablo Honey is a straight dive into the sound of Seattle.
  • Insecure Love Interest: "Creep," which proved that stalkers can be insecure, too.
    "You're so fucking special / I wish I was special."
  • Internalized Categorism: "Creep" is narrated by someone filled with self-loathing thanks to their perception of themselves as, well a creep and a weirdo, believing that they don't belong where they are. This is in turn contrasted with the verses, which show them drunkenly stalking a beautiful girl from afar.
  • Incredibly Long Note: The bridge of "Creep" ends with several ("She runs, run, run, RUUUUUUUUUUN!"), but it gets even more impressive with one very memorable live performance.
  • Large Ham: Performances during this era tended to be rather... over the top. Special notice goes to the infamous MTV Beach House 1993 performance, where Thom repeatedly belted his lungs out and threw himself into a swimming pool, almost drowning because of his heavy Doc Martens. While attempting to drag himself out of the water, he also came close to grabbing a live wire.
  • My Greatest Failure: If not Hail to the Thief, this album tends to get this reputation among the band (save for Jonny Greenwood, who considers it underrated).
  • Obsession Song: "Creep". According to Thom Yorke, it's about a drunk guy following around a woman he's attracted to, lacking the self-confidence to actually approach her. However, many listeners think it's a straightforward unrequited-love song from the perspective of a guy with self-esteem issues... which is perfectly reasonable from the lyrics themselves, except that it provides no explanation for the line "she's running out the door", making it a bit of a Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick. In fairness, that's the least intelligible part of the song, so a lot of people probably didn't even know that's what he was saying. Going by the "unrequited love song from the POV of a guy with self-esteem issues" interpretation, "she's running out the door" could mean that said guy attempted to admit his feelings but only succeeded in scaring her.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Lurgee"
  • One-Word Title: "You", "Creep", "Ripcord", "Vegetable", "Lurgee"
  • Precision F-Strike: The famous, strategically-placed "you're so fucking special" in "Creep."
  • Rearrange the Song: "You", "Thinking About You", and "Prove Yourself" are all re-recordings of songs from the 1992 EP Drill; the one other song on it, "Stupid Car", was not re-recorded for this album for reasons unknown. While "You" is relatively unchanged between the 1992 and 1993 versions, the re-recordings of "Thinking About You" and "Prove Yourself" are noticeably different, the former changing from an Elvis Costello-inspired New Wave Music song into an acoustic ballad and the latter featuring multi-tracked vocals instead of processed ones during the chorus.
  • Rock Star Song: Satirized on "Anyone Can Play Guitar", which mocks the "rock star" image and mythos; particular ire is given towards the lingering influence of The Doors and the constant pressure for rock musicians to draw from frontman Jim Morrison. Unlike most of Pablo Honey's stylistic trademarks, the distaste towards rock idolization would stick throughout Radiohead's lifetime, and it would serve as an influence on the electronic direction of Kid A in 2000.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Thom has come to view the band's behavior during this album's era as this, being at a time when the success of "Creep" made them feel like they were on top of the world despite the fact that A) they had only one hit single by that point, and B) it was their debut single, with plenty of room to trip up immediately after. Particular mention goes to Thom's attempts to play himself up as a British Kurt Cobain and the infamous MTV Beach House 1993 performance, both of which factor into the Pablo Honey era's in-universe Old Shame status for the band and for Thom especially. Thom went on to describe himself during that point as "unbearable," stating that "as soon as you get any success, you disappear up your own arse."
  • Springtime for Hitler: Supposedly, the guitar "crunches" just before the chorus of "Creep" were an attempt by a very disgruntled Jonny Greenwood to ruin the song. It wound up being one of the most distinctive parts... and then people (and the band) started disliking it after it got waaay too much exposure compared to the rest of their material.
  • Take That!: "Anyone Can Play Guitar" is a big one towards rock idolization, particularly in regards to the constant pressure to live up to the legacy of The Doors. Thom had previously stated in interviews that he had a "pathological disrespect" for frontman Jim Morrison and his posthumous deification, dismissing him as "a fat, talentless bastard [who's] dead"note . Thom would double down on this further in the band's infamous MTV Beach House 1993 performance of "Anyone Can Play Guitar", during which he ad-libbed the line "FAT. UGLY. DEAD." shortly after namedropping Morrison.
  • Uncommon Time: "You" has three measures of 6/8 followed by one measure of 5/4.

"And everything I touch...turns to stone."
 
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Anyone Can Play Guitar

Radiohead's ahem... infamous performance of the Pablo Honey track on MTV Beach House.

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Main / CarefulWithThatAxe

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