Radiohead

At some point in the early 21st century, Radiohead became something more than a band: they became a touchstone for everything that is fearless and adventurous in rock, inheriting the throne from David Bowie, Pink Floyd, and the Talking Heads. The latter group gave the band its name -- it's an album track on 1986's True Stories -- but Radiohead never sounded much like the Heads, nor did they take much from Bowie apart from their willingness to experiment. Instead, they spliced Floyd's spaciness with U2's messianic arena-rock heft, bridging the gap with guitar skronk borrowed from the '80s American underground. Jonny Greenwood's jagged, brutal interjections on "Creep," the band's 1993 breakthrough hit, recalled the ugly noise of the Pixies and Nirvana, a sound that translated over the expanse of an ocean, but in the throes of the alternative rock explosion of the mid-'90s, Radiohead were the odd band out. America remained besotted with their homegrown sensations, so "Creep" was treated as a one-hit wonder, and at home in England, they were seen as dour art-rock students lacking the glamour of neo-glam sensations Suede, and deliberately dodging the beery singalongs of Oasis. During the peak of Brit-pop in 1995, Radiohead released The Bends, a significant leap forward from their 1993 debut, Pablo Honey, and while that gained them some traction, it was 1997's OK Computer that broke down all the doors for the band and changed alternative rock in the process. Expanding their sound with electronica and unapologetic prog rock suites, Radiohead turned into a different band with OK Computer and the world followed suit. Soon, whenever rock bands dabbled in electronics, it was derived not from tightly sequenced rhythms, but rather, from glassy textures and introspection, a sensibility pioneered by the quintet. Radiohead doubled down on this aesthetic on 2000's Kid A, a record that traded concise hooks for minimal arrangements and jazz, providing a dividing line between an audience that once loved the group for their guitars and those listeners attracted to the band's aspirations. From this point on, Radiohead would occasionally flirt with concise song structures but were drawn toward unusual paths in both their music and business. Once their contract with EMI expired, they remained an independent band, pioneering different avenues of digital releases. They issued 2007's In Rainbows with little warning, letting listeners pay whatever they'd like for the record -- cementing Radiohead's reputation as a band compelled to look forward, not back.