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Radiohead - The Bends CD (album) cover

THE BENDS

Radiohead

 

Crossover Prog

3.82 | 400 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Starette
Prog Reviewer
4 stars You're looking at a review for a Radiohead album. You can also tell the reviewer likes Radiohead because of the 4-star rating she gave this album. And you're probaby saying to yourself "oh no..not again." If you are indeed thinking along those lines: Take the veil away from your eyes, the plugs out of your ears, the pessimism from your heart and realise the meaning of life. I would've given this album a 5-star rating....IF it was really Progressive Rock, but unfortunately it has nothing to do with that genre.

The Bends was the first Radiohead album I heard- back when I was fourteen. Now I'm nineteen and as much as Radiohead aren't necessarily the *best* thing I've heard- I don't think I would've made it through this hard, hard life without them. Unfortunately I'm very 'weak' when it comes to holding my opinion: when someone I love has a completely different opinion to me I usually conform to their ideas (just SOME, not ALL...I'm not *that* weak!). For example, a previous boyfriend had me under the spell of System of a Down, Audioslave, Staind and other godawful mainstream/political extremities that all sound the same. And when I began going out with a largely Progressive Rock fan not long ago and he introduced me to this site, I started to get the paranoia I've felt before: that I'd lose my own music because of what his opinion is on it, that I'd probably end-up agreeing with everything he said even if it was a blatant attack of my favourite music, etc etc- you get the gist. So when I found Radiohead were on this site- I was actually VERY happy- despite what my boyfriend's views are on the same subject. I can learn about one of the bands I've loved so much for most of my youth AND learn about Prog Rock at the same time! God knows- Radiohead are not Progressive Rock. They don't even LIKE Prog Rock (has anyone else heard what Thom Yorke has to say about it?) but that doesn't diminish their status at all. Anyway- enough wankity wank-wank-ish-ness from me: These are my views on this gorgeous album:...

Planet Telex: This is a very 'vibrant', for want of a better word, start to the album- showing some of the best of Phil Selway's drumming and a rather catchy riff from Ed O'Brien's distorted guitar. I admit it: I'm a headbanger and I love this song. Phil's drumming can be a bit repetitive, as in most generic bands, but this track brings out his abilities (as does Where I end and You Begin from Hail To the Thief) and Radiohead may be pop-rock mainstream but they are most certainly NOT generic. Pablo Honey- that's as generic as they can go and even on that I have my doubts about the word. I just realised something: Phil Collins and Phil Selway are 2 fantastic drummers with the same name! (A random fact I thought I should share with you.) On Planet Telex- the thing to note is the lyrics: "You can walk it home straight from school, you can kiss it, you can break all the rules." Playing with our mind- getting us to ask questions: What the hell is 'it'? These are the kind of games I enjoy playing. And then "Everything is......broken." Radiohead have been noted for the depressing tones they sing in, and the depressing themes that appear in most, if not all, of their songs. Well, we can't question whether or not this song is depressing, by listening to the lyrics, but it's hard not to observe how uplifting the music is. There are definitely contrasting elements here. A beautiful high guitar solo sings above the other instruments before the track ends.

The Bends: I agree with the fact that this song isn't the *best* of songs but I still feel affectionately towards it. What, with the constant use of electric distorted guitar over repeating rythym and bass guitar- it's a better song to play in the Pub. Ed O'Brien is in fact a King of guitar who has yet to be acknowledged. Another subject to discuss, about this track, is Thom's voice. You may say it's whiny, you may say it's too high but has anyone ever considered the fact that it is precisely THAT which gives him his charm? Thom Yorke, Chris Martin and Peter Gabriel are three singers who (IMO) seem to sing as if they can't sing at times yet it is the emotion with which they sing that really makes the song. Indeed- Thom often sings as if the music takes him over. And so it should! Catchy lyrics from this song include: "Riding on the bus with my drip-feed on, talking to my girlfriend, waiting for something to happen. I wish it was the 60s, I wish we could be happy, I wish, I wish, I wish that something would HAPPEN." At times- I feel the pain of this character. Once again- a very up-beat song for a depressing theme.

High and Dry: This song is a bit bland, yet the lyrics do need applauding. I've always turned to this song when it somes to thinking about the stereotypical 'young depressed male who believes he has wasted his life.' To those who don't like Radiohead- I can see how their constantly depressing tone would annoy you. It's also a song that conveys a message from a friend to a man, and the message is "No wonder you're sad- you're STUPID!"- a message which is also conveyed in Just. This song is rather repetitive and has all the qualities of a ballad. It's not stunning but I give it credit for Thom's lyrics, beautiful use of melody and vibrato.

Fake Plastic Trees: This song is almost exactly the same as High and Dry except for the fact it's a lovesong- and a subtle one too. AND there's use of keyboard (yes- Radiohead DO use a keyboard) The lyrics have become a tad more *interesting* (eg: "He used to do surgery, on girls in the 80s, but gravity always wins.") and Thom's excellent use of falsetto is always moving. However- I would (like High and Dry) only give this song a 4/10 rating. Radiohead are GOOD at acoustic ballads, and they are good at romantic songs...in their own 'gothic' way, but it's not that area where they're at their BEST.

Bones: This is a good catchy song with an upbeat pace, even with a more optimistic theme: It's not about depression, it's about fear IMO. (But lyrics can be so subtle- so please don't take my opinions as fact.) However- the lack of key-change doesn't allow it to stick in your brain after listening to the album once. Only one line tends to stick: "And you'rve GOT to FEEL it IN your Bones!" Your've got to love they way Thom puts emphasis on some words in the melody but not others. Thanks to the two Greenwoods and Ed'OBrien (*especially* Ed) Radiohead have some of the best guitar-work of all bands from this era. (That is to say: pop/rock bands from the 1990s onwards) But this is only a taste. Their best from this album is not yet heard.

(Nice Dream): Comforting Lullaby... a guitar played high on the stave...the recurring strumming of another guitar...Thoms lazy voice singing a high melody which is happily- sad (pardon my usage of an oxymoron). This song is nothing short of Beautiful. It's seemingly-simple melody is calming, it's lyrics...(as usual)...curious. "I called up my friend the good angel, but she's out with, her answerphone. She said that she'd love to come help but, the sea might, electrocute us all." (forgive me if I have some of those words wrong) Watch out for the sudden change in the tone of the song at the bridge: electric guitars raise above the others and the drumming gets louder. It's unexpected and if you love Progressive Rock then you have to appreciate this just a *little* bit at least! After the bridge it sinks back into it's sleepy zone. The high-guitar fades out the song with it's repetitive but sweetly-calming riff. Just a few meditations on what this song is about: Is the singer really happy or does he Want to be happy? Is he satisfied with what he has or is he missing something oh-so very badly? OR...is this song really the drifting in and out of dreams that we get at night? (in that case- for example- the bridge can be seen as the random wavering of a nightmare.)

Just: This song is LEGENDARY! The guitar-work reaches its best here and the drumming- perfect. Changes in riffs, time-signature and keys make this 1) good enough to be appreciated by even the most steadfast progger 2) good for banging ones head to 3) even good for DANCING to! and 4) hard to get out of one's head after the album is over. Has anyone seen the video for this? Because that, too, is mind-boggling as are most of Radioheads lyrics. I'm not giving anything away- please try and see it for yourself. Thom can do things with his voice that range from the lovely to the just-plain- odd. This song portrays most of those techniques. Also...call me tacky but I find this song hard to get out of my head whenever I have to help someone close to me who appears to have gotten themself into deep sh*t: "You do it to yourself, you do, that's what really hurts, is you do it to yourself, you do, you and no-one else!" Same theme as High and Dry, in a sense, yet a LOT more jumpy and optimistic.

My Iron Lung: This song is my all-time favourite of Radiohead's music. In a decades time- it ought to be a CLASSIC. From the mysterious high-distorted twinkling riff of Ed's guitar and Thoms lazy vocals to the hard mosh-pit catharsis that repeats and accumulates towards the end with Thoms becoming more passionate in the singing and the rythmn-change in the thrashing of Phil's drumming...who could resist? Be you a progger or mainstream...who could Possibly resist loving this song?? (sorry- my affection for this song gets a bit out of hand) The guitar riff which sounds so eerie and strangely beautiful is, surpisingly, not that hard to play on the guitar. But it IS hard to master. I don't think anyone after Ed and Jonny can *quite* match their skill. QUINTESSENTIAL Radiohead!!!!!!

Bulletproof...I wish I was: You would think this song is like High and Dry...but No. Guitar-work= more complex therefore *better*, Singing= all over the place in the melody therefore *better*, Chordal-progression= more creative therefore *better*! I'd class this song with (Nice Dream) in the sense that the instrumental techniques used are outstanding but theme-wise it's almost the same as High and Dry: it appears to be sung by a man who wants self-esteem/thicker-skin/ the ability to stand-up for himself. Of course, this is only my interpretation of it, but the mood is catching. Yet more touches of a depressing romance: "Wax me, mould me, heat the pins and stab them in, you have turned me into this...just wish that it was Bulletproof." This song is very slow and calming.

Black Star: This appears to be about Love on the Rocks- or something of the sort. But that's pretty much the most noticeable thing about it. Apart from that, it's about as good as Bones. Good for head-banging yet guitar-work not at it's pitch. Drums and guitar 'dance' well together. Now, as much as I'm kicking myself for it, I can't be bothered saying much more about this track. It's good yet..rather generic. It's the kind of song that I would'nt mind listening to every now and then, for old times sake, but I can't really brag about it.

Sulk: Oh noooooo! Why did you have to go so horribly bland Thom?? Don't get me wrong- I'm exaggerating a little in my opinion of this track- but in comparison with the rest of the album it just sounds so BORING! Well...it's a love song to sing along to. End of story. *nod nod*

Street Spirit (fade out): This is a great contrast with the vibrant Planet Telex that began the album and it is precisely that which makes it a good song to close the album with. The fast acoustic guitar is gorgeous and it sounds almost like the type of riff your'd hear in a sad 70's ballad for a children's cartoon (sorry- all of a sudden I began to think of Dot and the Kangaroo). The video for this is'nt as good as the one for Just but I still recommend you see it. Sing-songy and sad- not perfect but satisfying.

In short- this album is not as *generic* as I'm suppossing most of you will make it out to be. From lullabies to mosh-pits, the moods in this album are various. Just listen to My Iron Lung and I *guarantee* your'll get something good out of it.

Starette | 4/5 |

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