Radiohead play Saturday, April 8, at Key Arena. Alex Lake

Radiohead is the most artistically significant band of the past 20 years, maybe 30 years, and maybe ever. And no band since their old tourmates in R.E.M. has the capacity to divide its fans on this crucial subject: What is their best record? You have your Bends crusties, OK Computer hard-liners, the Kid A/Amnesiac Damascenes, the In Rainbows generation, et al. Like the elephant in the old Sufi parable, Radiohead feels like a completely different animal depending on which of us blind people is doing the groping. Rather than contribute another essay on the band's indisputable significance/importance/excellence, we asked some Radiohead freaks to pick the one song that captures the quintessence of the band's power. Unsurprisingly, we got one from each album. –Sean Nelson


"Stop Whispering," Pablo Honey

I'm an unapologetic lover of Pablo Honey—horrors, I'm so sorry to even admit it!—and the rare fan of Radiohead who liked them eternally better before they wandered off into the mist that gathered around OK Computer, clouding my enjoyment ever since. How could anyone hear a song like "Stop Whispering" and conclude that they don't need to go further in that direction? The insistence of the snare. The melodic-turned-metallic wall of guitars. The simple poem of a lyric that builds to a burned-out wail: Stop whispering. START SHOUTING. Yes, sir. I will. In 1993, and even now, I will shout. I will air-drum and throw my head back and rage at the top of my lungs. You can keep your future, with its hushed parlor tones and bleepy-bloops. I'll be over here turning up the past, measure by thrilling measure, until I'm all screamed out—just as the rock gods intended. WHITNEY PASTOREK



"Bones," The Bends

How exactly did Radiohead develop such a deep-seated skepticism of mainstream society? Look no further than The Bends, ground zero for the band's sense of disaffection, and the glinting glam lurch "Bones." The song captures the emotional anguish that can accompany a debilitating physical condition. "And I used to fly like Peter Pan / All the children flew when I touched their hands," a grief-stricken Thom Yorke wails on the chorus, painfully aware of disappearing agility. Musically, "Bones" employs shambolic, buzz-sawing guitar riffs and a shuddering bass line to depict waves of distress and underscore the bodily discomfort felt by the song's protagonist. Radiohead's political lyrics can overshadow the band's commentary on the way external appearances contribute to societal isolation, and how feeling like a physical misfit relates to other forms of oppression. "Bones" is a reminder that the latter observations are far more incisive and resonant. ANNIE ZALESKI



"The Tourist" OK Computer

"The Tourist" represents some kind of apotheosis for "the grand album finale." Closing Radiohead's consensus magnum opus, OK Computer, its languorous pace, wistful mood, restrained guitar pyrotechnics, and tolling glockenspiel (or is it a triangle?) coalesce into something worthy of Pink Floyd circa Atom Heart Mother or Meddle. I've never been a fan of Thom Yorke's neurasthenic whine, but on "The Tourist," the song's grandiose arc enables him to strain into his range's sweet spot. He delivers the lines with the sort of gravity and poignancy that make this listener—someone who respects Radiohead and their music more than he enjoys them—understand what all the fuss is about. Also, the first time I heard "The Tourist" was when a server on whom I was crushing put OK Computer over the bar's PA, and the song's dreamy drift and romantic lilt intensified my desire for her. So there's that, too. DAVE SEGAL



"Palo Alto," How Am I Driving EP

Call me sentimental, but I love rock bands, and Radiohead recorded this astonishing B-side in the wake of the outsize (though still never sufficiently massive) success of OK Computer. Its recording is captured in the documentary Meeting People Is Easy, which I basically watched every day for months while waiting and hoping that the next record would somehow combine the cathartic aggression and wit of this song with the more expansive textures and shapes of OK Computer. As we all know, Kid A and Amnesiac (which I still think of as "the new ones") did nothing of the kind, instead ushering in the next two decades of extrapolated, decentralized electronic space alienation music as the defining sound of the age. Which was perfectly fine. However, in "Palo Alto," you hear the last explosive gasp of Radiohead as noisy, obstreperous, guitar-driven British rock band. And every time they announce a new record, I secretly dream they'll become one again. SEAN NELSON



"Morning Bell," Kid A and Amnesiac

There are two versions of "Morning Bell"—one is on Amnesiac (2001) and the other on Kid A (2000). I don't care much for the former, which has no beat and has the gothic mood of Depeche Mode's Black Celebration. But the latter and first version captures a marvelous feeling that I think is best described by this line in James Joyce's Finnegans Wake: "It darkles, (tinct, tint) all this our funnaminal world." The Kid A version of "Morning Bell" has a beat that stutters and a mood that darkles like a Bernard Herrmann score. And in the manner of a blues tune, it's mostly composed of triplets, with the second line repeating the first line ("Where did you park the car? / Where did you park the car?"). But unlike a blues tune, the third line does not resolve L1 and L2 ("Clothes are all over the furniture..."). In a standard blues stanza, L3 brings it all together (for example: "My name is Piggly Wiggly, got-a groceries all on my shelf / My name is Piggly Wiggly, got-a groceries all on my shelf / Got a sign on my door, 'You can come in and help yourself.'"). The lines in "Morning Bell" go from a question about a missing car to a messy room to a mischievous thought to the eruption of a fire drill to the moments before a murder. One stanza, the darkest in the work, has three repeated lines. This is a hypnagogic blues tune. CHARLES MUDEDE



"2 + 2 = 5," Hail to the Thief

Despite relentless and undying respect for Radiohead, Hail to the Thief was the last album of theirs I truly loved, and its leadoff track, "2 + 2 = 5," is an all-time favorite. It's dark, disaffected, and driving, speaking directly to the righteous anger I was feeling toward the Bush administration at the time (which I once thought was the worst this country faced) and a seemingly complacent populace content to accept whatever was thrown down the pipeline. The lyrics reflected on our country's political state—explicit criticism of Bush winning the presidency in the 2000 election even though Gore earned the popular vote—while referencing George Orwell's 1984 and mindless denizens who accept implausible truths even when logic and fact prove otherwise. The band was also touring behind Hail to the Thief the first time I saw them live, and I'll never forget the explosive way they opened the set with this track. It reminds me that Radiohead had teeth that more recent output seems to lack. Song and album are just as relevant today as when they grabbed me the first time. And we still aren't really paying attention. LEILANI POLK



"Bodysnatchers," In Rainbows

In my mind, Radiohead will always own two subjects: the paranoid individual lashing out against society and love as soul-eating obsession. "Bodysnatchers" from In Rainbows exemplifies the former—it's a perfect expression of the particular rage that mopey kids allow themselves to feel once a month. In the beginning, a heavily distorted, hard-rock riff and a nervous hi-hat add a lot of nervous energy to Thom Yorke's frustrated murmur. Yorke sounds like he's about to burst into some kind of paranoid thunderstorm, and then, 40 seconds later, he does. His voice rises into a full-on Brit-punk hissy while Jonny Greenwood lays an apocalyptic riff over the top an already apocalyptic rhythm guitar part. Then a siren noise wraps around the whole thing as Yorke sings, "I have no idea what I am talking about / I'm trapped in this body and can't get out," and suddenly the song is a full-blown paranoia tornado. Despite all the cinematic gestures, the tornado feels very internal. The speaker would tear up the whole fucked-up world if he could only get out of his own head. RICH SMITH



"Codex," The King of Limbs

There's a certain place that a songwriter's mind travels to time and again, depending on the instrument they are playing and the kinds of chords their hands naturally gravitate to when they stop "trying" to write. I think "Codex" springs from that effortless place, the same well inside Thom Yorke's head as "Pyramid Song" and "Sail to the Moon," not only in the odd time signature and ominous chords, but also in its imagery of jumping into water, to a place of purity and fearlessness. The key is neither major nor minor, it doesn't tell you how or what to feel. There's a hypnotic timelessness, a disinterested beauty that allows for all sorts of personal interpretation. TOMO NAKAYAMA



"Daydreaming," A Moon Shaped Pool

A Moon Shaped Pool is the Radiohead album that really speaks to me. It feels melancholy, resigned to interior spaces—whereas their earlier works felt cerebral, almost intellectual. Thom Yorke has always written about anxiety and breaking down, but "Daydreamer" feels like a panic attack lived through and ably managed. Time slows down, you become the observer, watching the wheels go round and round; other people and their actions seem alien, but fear has been replaced by a breathing resignation. I don't know the origin story of this record, but it seems as though Jonny Greenwood has taken some hold of the Radiohead creative reins: Piano and synthesizer loops become textures that interplay with digitally manipulated strings, and Yorke's voice becomes the narrator in an emotional landscape that plays like a small Paul Thomas Anderson film in your brain. (Which is doubly awesome, because Anderson also directed the video for this song.) JASON DODSON