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Radiohead - The Bends CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

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4 stars Radiohead: The Bends (1995)

Thom Yorke: Vocals, Guitar

Johnny Greenwood: Lead Guitar, Organ, Synthesizer, Piano

Colin Greenwood: Bass

Phil Selway: Drums

Ed O'Brian: Guitar, Backing Vocals

It may be hard to believe that the hard-hitting alternative band Radiohead was once called 'a lily livered excuse for a rock band'. The release of the first LP "Pablo Honey" and their subsequent well known single "Creep" were somewhat heavily criticised. They were described as a one hit wonder as they failed to release any other track on the record prior to the fame of "Creep". It seemed that "Creep" was the only track on the record with any potential of fame.

Stung by the criticism Radiohead released their second LP known as "The Bends" in 1995. The album followed the popular path of Indie Rock with tracks such as "High and Dry", "Fake Plastic Trees" and "Street Spirit (Fade Out)". These are now widely regarded as genuine Indie anthem tracks. The album was voted 100th best album of all time out of 500 in the Rolling Stones magazine; it became clearer that all critics had been proved wrong.

The album name "Bends" refers to decompression sickness. This medical condition develops when deep-sea divers come up to the sea surface too quickly. Many perceive the name of the album as a metaphor of Radiohead's sudden and unexpected fame. The lyrics throughout are written by Thom Yorke an commonly relate to hid unhappiness. Hid lyrics are mostly seen to be metaphors referring to health matters in songs such as "Bones" and "My Iron Lung". These songs are related to genuine problems in society that we live in and the suffering that some people endure during their lifetime. Thom Yorke uses themes such as alienation and technology and his lyrics are notorious for giving the feeling of depression and dissatisfaction.

There are two sides to the album. The first being the classic Indie Rock most famous in the time of 1995, the second being an array of orchestra and synthesized loops. Radiohead's alternative style heard in the album differs to the bleach blonde Indie Rock that was usually heard in 1995.

The album opens with possibly the most contemporary track on the record. "Planet Telex" sways with its synthesized background loop alongside keyboard and spaced out guitar rhythm. Lead guitarist Johnny Greenwood shows his matchless style of playing with classic heavy riffs to clean cut solos. Johnny was originally given the roll of playing the Harmonica, but ironically became the backbone of the band with his superb skills on lead guitar.

Five songs were released on the album; "My Iron Lung", "High and Dry", "Fake Plastic Trees", "Just" and "Street Spirit (fade out)". "Fake plastic Trees" was a huge hit in the U.S and quickly became an album favourite. The song begins with a soft acoustic touch alongside the light, high vocals from Yorke, Which leads one into a trance by the ending of the song. A very unique sound in the Brit pop era of 1995.

"Just" shows that there was still a fast, strong side to Radiohead, as the striking acoustic riff leads to a heavily distorted introduction. It shows that Radiohead had not diverted away from Indie Rock and the fast riffs and textbook vocals were what earlier fans wanted to hear. The song can be compared to You, the opener from Pablo Honey, both being very strong and aggressive. The critically acclaimed video shows the seriousness in the song, the ending has boggled minds from all over the globe.

Other songs such as "Street Spirit (Fade out)" or "High and Dry" were seen as Radiohead's best work ever. The incomparable acoustic riff in "Street Spirit" has shown that the song is one of the biggest cult anthems of the 90's. Vocally, the song is more emotional than ever before, as the lengthy elevated sound of Thom's voice was yet another first for Radiohead. Yorke may have stretched his voice to such a pitch in "Pablo Honey", but never before had he kept the note for such a long time. "High and Dry" also shows a more sad and unhappy feeling, as lyrically the song is about being hated, and left out. The song begins with a customized drum beat leading to an acoustic rhythm alongside the faded lead guitar in the background.

"The Bends" has been and still is considered not only one of Radiohead's best albums, but one of the very best albums of al time. Although, "The Bends" seemed to have been firmly pushed off the shelf due to the release of their follow-up album, "OK Computer". "OK Computer" was recently voted by million of English television viewers as the greatest album of all time, beating critically acclaimed albums The Beatles and U2. In a way both "The Bends" and "OK Computer" are similar guitar-wise, although the latter was the beginning f Radiohead's experimental era which can still be heard to date in "Amnesiac", "Kid A'" and "Hail to the Thief".

Mathewrenforth | 4/5 |


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