TRACK MARKS: What the Hell, You Weirdos Are All Too Good For “Creep,” by Radiohead?

I used to have a long-ish commute. As expected, sometimes traffic would snarl to a halt. On one particularly backed-up day, I looked up and realized I had no idea where I was. Even though I was overly familiar with every inch of scenery on my way to and from work, having driven the same route every day, I never really had the chance to stop and look closely at some of the things I was passing.

After seeing our Best of Radiohead list, I realize that “Creep” is that stretch of landscape. People pass by it so often that they don’t stop to really listen to it anymore.

Reasons for this are plentiful. You can dismiss “Creep” as the radio hit, the song that’s not for the true fans. You can wave it away as being part of Pablo Honey, the most straight-ahead alt-rock album in the Radiohead discography. You can say that it already got a buzzy, slowed-down cover used in a movie trailer, signaling that the life cycle of that song is really, truly over.

That’s all valid, but it’s time to stop and give another, fresh listen to “Creep.” Even if Radiohead went on to become a better, more creative band, you can still hear what makes them great in “Creep.” There’s the instantly recognizable guitar arpeggio. There’s a kind of petulance, too, in the guitar scratches that I think were supposed to be some kind of rebellion against the song, but wind up making it.  And even I take for granted lyrics like, “You float like a feather in a beautiful world,” which are really gorgeous when I stop to think about them.

“Creep” was also my first Radiohead song. I imagine it was yours, too. Even if you no longer feel like you’re the flannel-clad misfit who, like the speaker in the song, is just looking for some kind of acceptance, surely you can appreciate that “Creep” is the gateway to “Paranoid Android,” “Idioteque,” and everything else that comes after. And that’s fucking special.