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Radiohead - The Bends CD (album) cover

THE BENDS

Radiohead

 

Crossover Prog

3.81 | 584 ratings

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FloydWright
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Before I go further, I want to say that I do consider RADIOHEAD prog in the overall view. While I despise the "next Pink Floyd" comparisons I used to hear, I do think that's the element the two bands have in common. There are also other cases of bands like TALK TALK starting out as very obvious 80s synth-pop, but suddenly "turning prog". This is EXACTLY what happened to RADIOHEAD.

The Bends isn't very prog, and I'll be the first to admit it. But I will state up front that is the only reason I'm deducting a star. Were I reviewing it anywhere else, I would give 5 stars, no questions asked. Yes, this is more pop-rock than anything, but about the best pop-rock you'll find anywhere. Even the poppiest tracks, like "Bones", work well in their production and execution, and do not disrupt the flow of the album in any way. Their talent is evident early on, and there are elements here that I think the RADIOHEAD fan ought to hear that don't appear in later albums. What about that pleasant Hammond organ in "Fake Plastic Trees"? That doesn't appear in their later albums, but is quite welcome here. Along similar lines, there seem to be some other interesting uses of the Leslie speaker with guitars, creating a guitar tone not unlike "Any Colour You Like" by PINK FLOYD. I can hear this on "Planet Telex" and "Bones" at least, and possibly in other places as well.

For those who appreciate THOM YORKE's vocals, this is probably one of the best albums for being able to hear the gentler, melodic side of his singing. The lyrics, I'll admit, aren't the best out there, but I regard YORKE's voice more as a musical instrument than a conveyance of information, and it causes no problems for me in listening. Probably the best vocal moment on the album (and one of the best in general) is "Fake Plastic Trees", and "Bullet Proof...I Wish I Was" deserves an honorable mention in this category as well. Other high points of The Bends include the opening track, "Planet Telex", "High and Dry", "Street Spirit", and from a lyrical standpoint, "Just". While I don't normally think much of RADIOHEAD's lyrics, I do like this description of self-destructive people that reminds me in tone of the much later song "A Punchup at a Wedding", from Hail to the Thief.

No...this is not typical prog. However, I think if you like even one of RADIOHEAD's albums, and do not insist upon every single album you hear being the most experimental prog, this album ought to come next. It may be the polar opposite of Kid A (their prog masterpiece, in my book), but I'm about to go out on a limb and say that within the genre The Bends, it is every bit the equal of Kid A in terms of what it's accomplished. They've made one "great" for the pop world, and one for the prog world, and I'm content to accept both gladly.

FloydWright | 4/5 |

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