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Radiohead - The Bends CD (album) cover

THE BENDS

Radiohead

 

Crossover Prog

3.81 | 585 ratings

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Textbook
4 stars While Radiohead were still an album away from being labeled progressive, The Bends is nevertheless well worth checking out because it's one of the most interesting pop-rock records of 1995.

Pablo Honey tootled along nicely enough but nothing really gripped you emotionally and mentally all that much. Here several tracks pack a real whallop that gives the album the edge needed to earn a place in your collection, despite having little to no progressive influence.

The opening to Just is one of my favourite openings ever with the acoustic guitar strumming giving way to an incredibly exciting drum smack and then that ascending guitar riff that just goes on and on. Radiohead sure hadn't forgotten how to write a hit single. In fact they had two of them this time, with High And Dry also making it in the charts. High And Dry is a bit wishy-washy for me though, reminding me of the likes of Travis, and is not one of my favourites- it's just uneventful. It does showcase Yorke's improving vocals. I always thought Bones should've been released as a single- some really nice bass work from Colin and a great, twisted, crushing chorus.

But beneath the radio-ready commercial side Radiohead had, more serious and troubling songs lurked. Fake Plastic Trees not only features a near tear-inducing vocal performance and an incredible orchestra like build-up but possibly Yorke's best lyric ever. It's also about the last time he wrote a lyric that wasn't opaque. It seems after this he made a conscious decision to write lyrics that didn't have a direct meaning which has proved artistically interesting, but it makes me wonder if we've missed out on more songs with the direct emotional punch this one has. Nice Dream is incredibly beautiful- love the use of the backing vocals in this one.

The title track is another stormer, though its certainly one of the tracks Radiohead's detractors can use to argue that the band are miserabilists. Opener Planet Telex features great production with the way sounds wash in and out but its closer Street Spirit that really takes the cake- there was a time I almost couldn't listen to Street Spirit, it affected me that much. It seems to me to be an incredibly well executed cry of despair at all the lives in all the houses around you and how you'll never know anything about them and how they're all scrabbling for attention and recognition and the singer is just collapsing in sorrow at the sadness of the situation. Well maybe I got carried away there but it sure is a powerful song.

The album is not perfect however. I quite dislike My Iron Lung. The verse is dull and the heavy rock section that kicks in twice is just noisy and ugly. Sulk is alright but kind of plain. Black Star I quite like- with a little more hookage it might've made a good single too- but it just seems to be missing an X factor present on other songs.

All in all though, Radiohead had certainly improved on Pablo Honey. This record was memorable and wasn't overshadowed by a single song as that one was. They sounded more mature and more in control of their sound and Yorke in particular sounds more purposeful about what he's doing. But as much as I have enjoyed their two albums, we must now bid farewell to the pop rock Radiohead as we will never see them again.

Textbook | 4/5 |

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