Listening Booth: Radiohead, “The Best Of”

Written by Listening Booth, Music

For a band like Radiohead, making a “best of” is almost like a slap in the face. Limiting their consistently impressive catalog to a handful of songs completely out of context isn’t to their benefit. But these kinds of compilations have become an industry standard as an easy way for record labels to make cash, so it was only a matter of time until it happened to Radiohead, too.

Nothing here is really a surprise. All of the band’s big players are here — “Fake Plastic Trees,” “Paranoid Android,” “Creep,” so on and so forth. For the rare case of someone not familiar with Radiohead, it’s certainly a convenient way to get an easy handle on the songs that helped to break the band. But it’s debatable whether or not this is the most accurate representation of their output.

Radiohead, “Creep” (download)

Should a potpourri be one’s chosen method for digesting Radiohead, the expanded two-disc version is easily better than the standard release, featuring songs that weren’t on proper studio full-lengths. This includes favorites more tailored to more ardent fans, like “Talk Show Host” and “Exit Music (For a Film).”

Radiohead, “Talk Show Host” (download)

The Best Of‘s biggest turn-off is that both versions conveniently ignore In Rainbows, Radiohead’s digital release. Even the little accompanying essay in the booklet doesn’t mention it. Yet, many online retailers are describing this as a “career retrospective,” which is a hardly accurate term with the omission of what is not only the band’s most recent album, but arguably their most infamous.

Artist aside, The Best Of is no different from other “best of” collections. For casual fans who aren’t interested in purchasing albums, this is a handy one-stop purchase. But with the ability to buy singles on iTunes, one has to ask: who are “best of” releases really for anymore?