[CD Review] Radiohead, 'The Best Of' CD/DVD (Capitol)

There's a drop-everything reverence and mystique about Radiohead that can make them seem more important than they are good. Like God, if Radiohead didn't exist, it would be necessary to invent them, if only for critics and fans to cling to something in the face of the rote disappointments that are the rest of alt-rock's offerings over the past 15 years.

This Capitol-issued Best Of (Radiohead are no longer with the label) is really two records. The first is a milquetoast single disc of the hits, diplomatically drawing from all the albums. Songs such as Pablo Honey's MTV hit "Creep" and the lunging "The Bends" to the underrated Hail to the Thief with its melodic-tribal jam "There There" reveal a band, like U2 or Coldplay, who are as dependable as they are predictable. Thom Yorke's molested-choirboy-before-the-parish-payout vocals and Jonny Greenwood's self-immolating taste for noisy, Sonic Youth-like guitar show a band as capable of writing hits as sabotaging them, even if, taken at face-value here in a best-of, they can seem more dated and less monumental. If you're a Radiohead fan, you already have this stuff, as well as a bunch of other rarities, such as the cover of Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl" from an Italian show, etc.

Which is why if there's any merit here, it's the double-disc version, also available on vinyl, which makes the case that Radiohead, while being one of the whitest bands ever, are also one of the funkiest, much like the group whose song gave them their name, Talking Heads. "Airbag," "Planet Telex" and "The National Anthem" (at least until Lisa Simpson shows up with her farting sax and turns it into a bad Morphine jam) all should inspire a Radiohead breakbeat record; anyone baffled by Kid A's electronics can hear the band indulging in hip-hop beats and burping bass like Jesus Jones' lazy-eyed older brother before the discovery of Aphex Twin.

 
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