Radiohead was one of the most critically accalimed bands of the late 90's. However, record sales lagged behind the acclaim. For instance, the single 'Creep' was an alternative favorite in the early 90's. However, its album Pablo Honey only hit #32 on the Billboard 200. Radiohead's second, third and fourth albums: The Bends, OK Computer, and Kid A hit 88, 21, and finally #1 on the Billboard 200.
In 1993, Radiohead's first and biggest single 'Creep' was released in the USA and received heavy rotation on MTv and alternative radio. All summer, Radiohead toured with Belly and Tears for Fears. 'Creep' was re-released in the UK at the end of the year and hit their top ten. In 1995, Radiohead continued to build their fan base, opening for REM on their Monster tour. Their single 'Fake Plastic Trees' also received significant rotation on MTv.
1997 marked Radiohead's breakout year. OK Computer was released to widespread critical acclaim. While there were no runaway singles from the record, by the end of the decade, it was recognized that this was one of the most significant records of the late 90's
By 2000, critical acclaim and record sales caught up with the band. In its first week of release, Kid A was #1 on the Billboard 200 Chart. This record was roundly criticized as being radio-unfriendly. The band culled materials from the Kid A session and released Amnesiac a year later. The single 'Everything in its Right Place' found it's way onto the Vanilla Sky soundtrack, a Tom Cruise/Penelope Cruz film
By this time, the band was running out of gas. It released the mini-album, I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings at the end of 2001. It contained one original song, 'True Love Waits.'
In my own mind, the best thing ahout Radiohead are their live shows and their covers. If you can find them, Radiohead has covered Blondie's 'Union City Blues', Carly Simon's 'Nobody Does It Better', Pink Floyd's 'Wish You Were Here', Glen Campbell's 'Rhinestone Cowboy', and Neil Young's 'Cinnamon Girl'. On each cover, one can hear the Radiohead influences and how the band bends the song into its own. 'Wish You Were Here' and 'Union City Blues' are particular instructive as songs where the band is absorbing an influence and then overlaying neo-grunge sensibilities onto a New Wave/Power-pop classic.
Looking back at the era, one can see Radiohead and Smashing Pumpkins as redefining hard anthemic rock on either side of the Atlantic. Both Yorke and Corgan challenge listeners with their melacholy lyrics. Both bands use a space, texture, and walls of guitars, to create their own special landscapes.