Exactly 20 summers ago, the world was introduced to Radiohead by way of their debut single, “Creep.” Thom Yorke and company may have soured to their very first modern rock hit, but as we said in our list of the Best Singles of the 1990s, for which the song ranked at #37, “Creep” is rivaled only by “Every Breath You Take” as the ultimate kind-of-obsessive/kind-of-romantic crush anthem, with guitarist Jonny Greenwood’s perfectly timed blasts of electricity turning it from slightly creepy to threatening. The track peaked on the Billboard pop chart in September of 1993, a full year after its initial release, and Radiohead would go on to become one of the most influential bands in rock history. On the eve of this anniversary, we take a look back at the group’s best and most innovative music videos.
10. “Lotus Flower” (Dir: Garth Jennings). Like the clip for “Street Spirit (Fade Out),” Radiohead’s most recent video makes basically zero sense except as a wannabe homage to the freaky surrealism of David Lynch. But “Street Spirit” isn’t nearly as fun as watching Thom Yorke in a bowler hat doing a contorted dance in what could easily be Twin Peaks’s Black Lodge. If any shimmy were worthy of a social-media meme, this is it. Paul Rice
9. “High & Dry (U.K. Version)” (Dir: David Mould). From the beginning, Radiohead gave the MTV generation a unique brand of media-saturated paranoia to call its own. A fixation on surveillance, not to mention Thom Yorke’s unfortunate ’90s hair styling, runs through Radiohead’s early videos (“Fake Plastic Trees,” “Just”). The setup of the U.K. version of “High & Dry” is more cut-and-dry band-plays-in-a-desert, but it’s still intriguing for the way the group conceives of itself: alone, surrounded by nature, yet constantly being watched. Rice
8. “Paranoid Android” (Dir: Magnus Carlsson). Radiohead commissioned Swedish animator Magnus Carlsson for this bizarre and somewhat graphic video, which sees the titular protagonist of Carlsson’s series Robin encountering various unsavory or unearthly characters, including a prostitute in a tree, a deranged businessman, and an angel flying a helicopter. Sal Cinquemani
7. “House of Cards” (Dir: James Frost). When the “House of Cards” video came out, it struck me as a tech geek’s gimmick, but in retrospect, its motion-capture technique is used for deeply human ends. First we see two faces in close-up, their physicality rendered as blue-ish data points. Then, indistinct bodies at a party and a whole suburban landscape being wiped away in Etch-A-Sketch fashion. It’s a kind of digitally envisioned nightmare: Every pixel of everything we know, instantly erased. Rice
6. “No Surprises” (Dir: Grant Lee). Lo-fi simplicity tends to work best for Radiohead’s live-action videos. In “No Surprises,” we get to watch Thom Yorke gasp for breath as a water chamber fills and releases around his head. It’s a sly sadomasochistic dream that could be his, or that of plenty of Radiohead haters everywhere. Rice