Review of Radiohead: The Best Of
EMI / Capitol
Radiohead: The Best Of

Reviewed by James B. Eldred



or Radiohead, EMI is like a bad ex, constantly prodding them in the side, annoying them about how better life is without them while simultaneously waxing nostalgic about the times they had. Sure, the label badmouths the band and talks behind its back, but if Radiohead wanted them back, EMI would come running no questions asked, like an abused girlfriend eager for another slap in the face. Of course, that will never happen; EMI’s behavior toward Radiohead since the band jumped ship for greener, more independent pastures has been the equivalent of a jilted lover sleeping with your friends just to get back at you.

Since Radiohead ditched the mega-label last year and shocked/pleased its fanbase with the pay-what-you-want digital rollout for In Rainbows, EMI has not stopped exploiting the fact that they were once associated with the legendary rock group. First there was the extraneous box set, which included all the band’s albums with zip in the way of bonuses, B-sides or unreleased material. Not only that, it was expensive as hell and featured some of the ugliest packaging you’ll ever see. Fans already owned all the material in the box set and casual listeners would never start with something so expensive. In effect, they made a release for no one.

Now the label is trying to be a bit more inclusive with their collection of Radiohead: The Best Of releases. You can choose between a single CD version with 17 tracks, a two-CD “special edition” with 30 tracks, a 4-LP version with 29 tracks, or you can grab this DVD, which includes 21 of the band’s videos. Just like the box set that preceded them, these collections offer no new content, no rare tracks or B-sides, and absolutely zilch in the way of extras. Casual fans of the group who only own OK Computer might be interested, but these are obvious cash-ins.

Radiohead hasn’t released a video collection since their 1998 collection 7 Television Commercials, which featured a scant seven music videos from The Bends and OK Computer. This DVD triples that previous release’s video count and spans the group’s entire discography – minus Kid A, since no videos were made for that album. So in addition to all the great videos that were on that 10-year-old tape, you also get the excellent videos for later tracks like “Pyramid Song,” “There There,” and “Knives Out.” Rarely seen (in the US, anyway) videos from the Pablo Honey era are here as well, so you can check out Radiohead trying to be U2 in “Anyone Can Play Guitar” and marvel at a platinum blonde Thom Yorke’s attempts to be a superstar frontman.

So the videos are great, but once again, there are no extras. There’s a live performance of “2+2=5” that some might consider as a bonus, but that’s only there because there was no actual video for the song. The lack of any bonus content affirms that this DVD is nothing more than an attempt by EMI to make quick buck. And like the CD best-ofs and the giant box set, their lack of care in putting together this DVD collection is disappointing when you consider all the cool stuff they could have added to it, such as commentary tracks, behind-the-scenes footage, additional live performances, or the band’s interesting commercials.  Without all that stuff, you’re left with a collection of material that you can watch on YouTube for free.

And if I may break the fourth wall for a moment, this DVD is even harder to recommend because I, as a reviewer, have not yet seen the final product. The review copy sent to me by the lovely people at EMI is a DVD-R, lacking menus, chapter stops and who knows what else, since no specs as to what would be on the final version of disc were included. Want to know if the videos are in Dolby 5.1? Me too -- I can’t access any audio options on this disc. If any attempt was made to access a menu or skip tracks, the whole DVD would just start from the beginning again. This was done to stop reviewers like me from selling the DVD once I’m done with it. But when copy protection and other precautions start getting in the way of a reviewer’s ability to fairly and accurately rate a product, then one has to ask: What’s the point of sending out the product in the first place? The final irony of all this needless protection is that it proves that EMI really is out of touch and that Radiohead’s decision to run far away from them was undoubtedly the right one.

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