Pablo Honey

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Pablo Honey
Studio album by Radiohead
Released 22 February 1993
Recorded September – November 1992
Length 42:11
Radiohead chronology
Pablo Honey
Singles from Pablo Honey
  1. "Creep"
    Released: 21 September 1992
  2. "Anyone Can Play Guitar"
    Released: 1 February 1993
  3. "Stop Whispering"
    Released: 5 October 1993

Pablo Honey is the debut studio album by the English alternative rock band Radiohead, released on 22 February 1993 by Parlophone Records in the United Kingdom and by Capitol Records in the United States. The album was produced by Sean Slade and Paul Q. Kolderie, and was recorded at Chipping Norton Recording Studios and Courtyard Studio in Oxfordshire, England from September to November 1992. The album's title comes from a Jerky Boys prank call skit in which the prank caller says to his victim, "Pablo, honey? Please come to Florida!" This is sampled on the song "How Do You?".

The album received a generally favourable reception from critics, but some criticized its grunge sound as derivative and found certain songs underdeveloped[according to whom?]. The work is often held in a negative light in comparison to the band's subsequent studio albums, though some retrospectives are positive toward it. The album produced three charting singles, "Anyone Can Play Guitar", "Stop Whispering", and perhaps the band's most well-known hit on mainstream radio, "Creep". Pablo Honey peaked at #22 on the UK Albums Chart, and was certified platinum in the UK and other countries.[citation needed]


After a long dormancy while the members attended university, the band On a Friday reconvened in the early 1990s, becoming fixtures on the local Oxford scene with a series of demo recordings and well attended live gigs, finally signing with EMI/Parlophone and changing their name to Radiohead. The band's first official release, the Drill EP, was produced by their managers Chris Hufford and Bryce Edge, and sold poorly. For their debut album, the band sought the production skills of Massachusetts-based Paul Kolderie and Sean Slade, responsible for Dinosaur Jr. and Buffalo Tom albums of which they were fans.

Several months in advance of the album, the band came out with their debut single "Creep". According to bassist Colin Greenwood, "Creep" had been written by singer/rhythm guitarist Thom Yorke sometime in the late 1980s, while he was at Exeter University, and was shared with other members of the band, who were mostly very enthusiastic, citing the song as a reason to continue making music together. However, it was not included on any of their early '90s demo tapes and had not been a part of their live set. At the time, "Inside My Head" (which would later be released as a b-side to "Creep") was considered a good candidate for the band's lead single.

Sometime in 1992, the band began an impromptu performance of "Creep" at a recording session, referring to it as their "Scott Walker song" because it reminded them of one of their musical idols. Rumour states that Jonny Greenwood's famous guitar crunches in the chorus were supposedly an attempt to ruin a song he did not like. Producer Paul Kolderie stated that "Jonny played the piano at the end of the song and it was gorgeous" (though the piano was mixed in at the wrong time, the band decided to keep the take complete with mistake, not for the last time[clarification needed]). "Everyone who heard 'Creep' just started going insane. So that's what got us the job doing the album." As soon as their managers and producers realised the song was an original (not a Walker cover), other plans were put on the back burner, to the band's surprise, and "Creep" was released as a limited single to the public in late 1992. However, the single initially went nowhere. It was even blacklisted from BBC Radio 1 for being too depressing.[1]

In the meantime, the bulk of the album was recorded, in autumn 1992. Recording sessions were completed very quickly, as the band had been playing many of these songs for years. However, what ended up on Pablo Honey represents only a fraction of their On a Friday-era recorded material, with very little overlap with earlier demos. The album was once described by a Radiohead member as "Our greatest hits as an unsigned band", with smooth sonic textures, anthemic vocals, and walls of guitar noise. However, "Prove Yourself", which had led off Drill, reappears in a different recording, as do "You" and "Thinking About You" in reworked versions.

Critical reception[edit]

Initial reviews[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3/5 stars[2]
Entertainment Weekly (B)[3]
IGN (8.6/10)[4]
NME 7/10 stars[5]
Pitchfork Media (5.4/10)[6]
Q 3/5 stars[7]
Record Collector 3/5 stars[8]
Robert Christgau (choice cut)[9]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars[8][10]
Sputnikmusic 3.5/5 stars[11]

In the heavy alternative musical climate of 1993, Pablo Honey did not receive particular attention. However, several critics were enthusiastic about the band's forthcoming debut release. NME referred to the band as "one of rock's brightest hopes."[5] In the United States, their debut single, "Creep", prompted industry observers and fans to draw parallels between Radiohead and Nirvana, with some even touting Radiohead as the "British Nirvana".[12]

Pablo Honey would not garner the widespread acclaim of Radiohead's subsequent releases, but received a generally favourable critical reaction. NME awarded the album 7/10, foreshadowing the band's future success by describing it as "one of those flawed but satisfying debuts that suggests Radiohead's talents will really blossom later on." The magazine heavily criticised the track "How Do You?", writing that it "breaks the momentum of Pablo Honey horribly, throwing all of Radiohead's tortured sensitivity out of the window and leaving them sounding like beer-gutted losers from the class of '76".[5]

Q magazine, who also drew comparisons with Nirvana, awarded the album 3 out of 5 stars, equating to a "good" album, and wrote: "British teenagerhood has never been grumpier... the best bits rival Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr. and even the mighty Sugar."[7] Record Collector also awarded the album 3 out of 5 stars, describing it as a "promising debut record", and commending its lead single: "It contains their 'biggest' single in 'Creep.' A 12-bar blues jam with added crunch."[13] A consistent theme in British reviews was that the album's first half (where its three singles are placed), with the exception of "How Do You?", outweighed the second half, the songs of which they felt often descended into "banal post-grunge stylings."[5][7][13]

Stateside, several music publications gave the album positive reviews. Rolling Stone wrote in its year-end review that "What elevates them to fab charm is not only the feedback and strumming fury of their guitarwork and the dynamism of their whisper-to-a-scream song structures, which recall the Who by way of the early Jam, but the way their solid melodies and sing-along choruses resonate pop appeal."[10] Billboard said of the album: "This U.K. quintet is primed to blast onto the American scene with initial modern rock track 'Creep,' a tense, guitar-dominated number that appears in unexpurgated form on this debut album. Certain tracks here may remind listeners of U2 (thanks largely to Thom E. Yorke's vocal mannerisms and overall guitar texturing), but lyrics have enough bite to make it on their own. 'Ripcord,' 'I Can't,' and 'Blow Out' all contain excitement enough to heat up at target radio markets."[14]

Entertainment Weekly gave the album a "B" rating, opining that it "mates Smiths-type self-consciousness with dramatic U2-like vocals and guitar, with Cure-style heavy but crunchy pop."[3] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic also drew comparisons with U2, writing: "Radiohead's debut album, Pablo Honey, is a promising collection that blends U2's anthemic rock with long, atmospheric instrumental passages and an enthralling triple-guitar attack that is alternately gentle and bracingly noisy. The group has difficulty writing a set of songs that are as compelling as their sound, but when they do hit the mark – such as on 'Anyone Can Play Guitar,' 'Blow Out,' and the self-loathing breakthrough single 'Creep' – the band achieves a rare power that is both visceral and intelligent." Erlewine named singles "Creep" and "Stop Whispering", along with acoustic ballad "Thinking About You", as the best tracks on the album.[2]

Mario Mundoz of the Los Angeles Times wrote: "This English quintet's debut doesn't really deliver anything you haven't heard before, steering too close to Smiths-like melodies and trying ever so hard to be depressed in the way the Cure popularized. Occasionally, though, it does offer clever lyrics and good hooks."[15] Robert Christgau did not recommend the album, but named "Creep" as a "choice cut".[9]

Modern reception[edit]

Although Pablo Honey was not met with the critical fervour that Radiohead's later albums were, it has received praise in retrospective coverage. Lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood has expressed the opinion that the album has been somewhat underrated since release.[16] NME placed the album 35th of the 50 albums in its year-end list for 1993, describing it as "a throwback to a homegrown tradition of great guitar-band albums."[17] In 1998, Q magazine readers voted it the 61st greatest album of all time.[18] A Virgin poll saw Pablo Honey voted 100th in the all-time top 1000 albums.[19]

In 2004, Q included "Lurgee" and "Blow Out" in a list of twenty essential, lesser-known Radiohead songs as part of their "1010 Songs You Must Own".[20] In 2006, Classic Rock recognised the importance of Pablo Honey's contribution to popular music in the 1990s by including it in their "200 Greatest Albums of the 90's" (also featured in sister publication, Metal Hammer) as one of the 20 greatest albums of 1993.[21]

In a 2008 review, the BBC described the album as Radiohead's "exploration of suburban, adolescent self-awareness", concluding: "It all resulted in a stunning blend that combined the best aspects of prog rock (challenging lyrics, deft chord changes, novelty time signatures and so forth) with the plaintiveness of bedsit singer song-writing and the sound of expensive equipment thrashed at by experts. Though later albums were better received, this remains one of rock's most impressive debuts."[22] The same year, Blender placed the album 82nd in a feature entitled "100 Albums You Must Own", writing: "Self hate couldn't have found a better British exemplification with this band's debut single, which hit the world as part of an album that constructed walls of crunchy guitar tones amidst the dark lyrical content."[23] In a review for, British music critic Louis Pattison said of the album: "Pablo Honey... is much more than filler. 'Anyone Can Play Guitar' is certainly as good as 'Creep'; swathed in walls of feedback, it races blindly into an apocalyptic chorus, frontman Thom Yorke singing 'As the world turns and as London burns, I'll be standing on the beach with my guitar.' Certainly, indie-rock seldom got better than this".[24] In 2009, Amazon editors ranked Pablo Honey 26th in their "The 100 Greatest Debut Albums of All Time".[25] In a 2010 article, IGN Music ranked it as the fifth best of Radiohead's seven studio albums, writing: "Is it a classic? Yes. But when you consider that Radiohead would become one of the most innovative bands of the decade, Pablo Honey feels somewhat conventional. That doesn't make it any less awesome, however."[12]

Over time, the band dropped many of the album's songs from live setlists. However, since the turn of the millennium, "You", "Creep", "Lurgee", and "Blow Out" have been performed on several occasions.[26]

Nevertheless, in 2009, PopMatters' Mehan Jahasuriya criticized the album considering its sound as "a hodgepodge of half-baked grunge, jangle-pop and stadium-ready alternative rock." Jahsuriya also deemed the record as "nearly indistinguishable from other early ‘90s college rock throwaways, save for a few hints of greatness."[27]

"Heaven forbid anyone should judge us on Pablo Honey," remarked Ed O'Brien. "We were in hock to Dinosaur Jr. and the Pixies up to our eyeballs."[28]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks credited to Radiohead, except where noted.

No. Title Length
1. "You" 3:29
2. "Creep" (Radiohead, Albert Hammond & Mike Hazlewood[29]) 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



  1. ^ Melody Maker (September 1993)
  2. ^ a b Thomas, Stephen (20 April 1993). "Pablo Honey – Radiohead". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-03-07. 
  3. ^ a b Marisa Fox (14 May 1993). "Pablo Honey Review". Entertainment Weekly. p. 56. Retrieved 2012-05-22. 
  4. ^ Finn White. "Radiohead – Pablo Honey (Collector's Edition) Review – Music Review at IGN". Retrieved 2012-03-07. 
  5. ^ a b c d NME (13 March 1993, p.33): "one of rock's brightest hopes... one of those flawed but satisfying debuts that suggests Radiohead's talents will really blossom later on (7/10)."
  6. ^ Scott Plagenhoef (16 April 2009).Radiohead: Pablo Honey: Collector's Edition / The Bends: Collector's Edition / OK Computer: Collector's Edition Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
  7. ^ a b c Q (4/93, p.86): "...British teenagerhood has never been grumpier... the best bits rival Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr. and even the mighty Sugar (3 stars)."
  8. ^ a b "Radiohead – Pablo Honey CD Album". 24 March 2009. Retrieved 2012-03-07. 
  9. ^ a b Robert Christgau. "CG: Radiohead". Retrieved 2012-05-22. 
  10. ^ a b Evans, Paul (23 December 1993 – 6 January 1994). "1993 The Year In Recordings: Pablo Honey Radiohead". Rolling Stone (672/673). p. 151. Archived from the original on 17 February 2007. Retrieved 20 July 2007. 
  11. ^ "Radiohead – Pablo Honey (staff review)". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved 2012-03-07. 
  12. ^ a b "Radiohead: Worst to Best". IGN Music. Retrieved 5 July 2010.
  13. ^ a b Record Collector, (3/93, p.89): "It contains their 'biggest' single in 'Creep.' A 12-bar blues jam with added crunch... (3 stars)."
  14. ^ Pablo Honey review. Billboard. 24 April 1993. Retrieved 9 July 2010. Excerpt archived at
  15. ^ Pablo Honey review. Los Angeles Times. 27 June 1993. Retrieved 9 July 2010. Excerpt archived at
  16. ^ Kening, Dan. "All Grown Up". Daily Herald. 29 March 1996. Retrieved 25 August 2010. Excerpt at (fee required for complete article).
  17. ^ NME. 25 December 1993. p.67.
  18. ^ "All Time Top 100 Albums". Q. February 1998. Archived at
  19. ^ Maung, Carole Aye. "Beatles albums are top 3 of all time". Daily Mirror. 7 September 1998. Retrieved 23 August 2010. Archived at
  20. ^ "1010 Songs You Must Own (Essential Artists #2 – Radiohead)". Q. September 2004. Archived at
  21. ^ Classic Rock/Metal Hammer. "The 200 greatest albums of the 70s, 80s & 90s". March 2006. Archived at
  22. ^ BBC Review
  23. ^ 100 Albums You Must Own". Blender. June 2008.
  24. ^ Pattison, Lewis. Pablo Honey. Retrieved 5 July 2010.
  25. ^ "The 100 Greatest Debut Albums of All Time". Amazon. Retrieved 5 July 2010.
  26. ^ "Radiohead tour archive: the gigography". Ateaseweb. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
  27. ^ Jahasuriya, Mehan (15 March 2009). "Jigsaw Falling Into Place: Revisiting Radiohead's '90s Output". PopMatters. Retrieved 28 December 2015. 
  28. ^ Moran, Caitlin (July 1997). "I'm so glad they're getting more radio play than us.". Select: 87. 
  29. ^ Wardle, Ben. "Get off Coldplay's case – similar songs can co-exist peacefully". 12 May 2009. Retrieved on 22 September 2010.