Almost Credible Reviews

Home | Album Reviews | WRC Links | Ratings Explanation

b000002tqv.01.jpg

Go Back To Radiohead's Page

The Bends—8  
 
Released: 1995

1) Planet Telex  2) The Bends  3) High And Dry  4) Fake Plastic Trees  5) Bones  6) Nice Dream  7) Just  8) My Iron Lung  9) Bulletproof...I Wish I Was  10) Black Star  11) Sulk  12) Street Spirit (Fade Out) 

 

There aren’t many traditional sounding songs here as “The Bends” is one giant atmospheric wall of sound.  Almost every song is textured and layered to the point of suffocating.  While that could be the approach Radiohead were after in naming their second album “The Bends,” this is still a noisy and sonic jumble, and one of the most overrated albums of recent years.  Then again, how could an album with these types of accolades, not be overrated:

 

-Stylus (2004):                         131st  Greatest Album of All Time

-Rolling Stone (2003):             110th  Greatest Album of All Time

-Gear (1999):                          52nd   Greatest Album of All Time

-Guardian (1997):                   15th    Greatest Album of All Time

-Melody Maker (2000):           5th      Greatest Album of All Time

-Virgin All Time

 Top 1000 Albums (2000):       2nd    Greatest Album of All Time

 

Not to say that this record is bad…it isn’t even close.  But really it is just an alternative rock album with Englishness.  It isn’t the overpowering, outlandishly heaviness that was Nirvana, but it has a harder edge than R.E.M.  It isn’t as cocky as U2, but isn’t quite as dismal as the Smiths.  Basically, on this album, Radiohead took an enormous step forward from their debut, but still haven’t really distinguished themselves from their contemporaries.

   

The main reason why this album sounds so much better than “Pablo Honey” has to be the producing and engineering team of John Leckie and Nigel Godrich.  The band sounds so much clearer and they have a more focused structure, with the opening “Planet Telex” perfectly proving the point.  The words, the piano chords, the singing…everything here seems so much more powerful than anything on “Pablo Honey.”  There is a force behind this recording, and the entire record, that the band’s debut never really even hinted at.  The tune itself is just a textured, aura-inducing piece, but works wonders in setting the stage for the rest of the album.  That force is again on display with the title track.  It somehow manages to be catchy and hard to listen to at the same time, as the band intertwines about three different tunes together.  It doesn’t matter though…this isn’t the single, this track is about creating a mood…a lost, confused, angry, and hurt mood.  And still, despite its lack of accessibility, it is better than every song on ”Pablo Honey.”

 

Lightening the build up of the first two tracks is the ballad “High and Dry.”  It shares the acoustic charisma of “Stop Whispering,” but Yorke really takes a major step forward with his vocals on this tune.  The song is much quieter and calm and has a sweet melody, with the vocal hook on the chorus being particularly brilliant.  While it might seem like the mood has been lifted, this tune is just as dark as the previous offerings, but comes in a saccharine package.  Likewise, “Fake Plastic Trees” is another bleak ballad, with Yorke’s regal voice taking center stage.  It has charm and sincerity, and its slowly building tension really pulls you in despite its length.  None of these first four tracks will astonish you with their tunefulness, but they each have that something that makes this album so revered.  

 

Bones” sounds like Radiohead’s debut, meaning it kind of sucks.  It is harder and trashier than most tunes here, but it just isn’t a very strong song: too noisy and sloppy.  Conversely, “Nice Dream” shares many similarities with the band’s follow up album…a dreamy atmosphere, strumming guitar rhythms, and fine arrangements.  The middle, harder section doesn’t seem out of place, and this is one of the more successful tracks on the record.  Although it can’t hope to compete with “Just.”  This rocker just rules: vocal and musical hooks galore.  It has so much more structure than their previous attempts with Yorke freaking out overtop of the swirling guitar swells, and this whole tune is just ridiculously involving.  Johnny Greenwood’s guitar madness push “My Iron Lung,” the apparent follow up to “Creep.”  Similar to “Just” it is another smart, edgy, and well-structured winner.  The song’s main framework is catchy, hard, and dazzling, and slowly builds tension until the band goes all crazy Nirvana in the middle: harsh, heavy, and distorted.  Bulletproof…I Wish I Was” is another ballad, but of a much different sort.  Not the broken heart sound of the previous slow efforts, this is dark and ominous.  Yorke’s emotions are worn on his sleeve, not masked by any loop machines or cover-ups…it is just he and that moody background music, producing a very effective piece of work. 

 

Black Star” isn’t bad really with Yorke’s vocals standing out, but surely the song isn’t great.  It sounds like a second tier U2 tune.  Sulk” doesn’t even have the U2 connection working for it.  It is just another texture chunk, not really doing much of anything to further their sound, or giving me something pleasant to say.  Street Spirit (Fade Out)” though is absolutely gorgeous; as fulfilling as it is unexpected.  The acoustic guitar swirling riff, with Thom’s voice penetrating each note is as resonant as the band would get.  There isn’t anything negative you could say about this tune…it is moody, beautiful, haunting, and maybe the best song of their career.                                       

 

Still, overall, something is missing.  The Bends” seems like college kids “playing” rock; acting it out, not really 100% behind every song.  There are exceptions, but for this album to be considered among the greatest ever created is pretty ridiculous. Radiohead were still working out their kinks and slowly developing their style.  Many consider this to be their most melodic album and starting point, but it is really only a very good alternative rock record, with a few great songs, massive amounts of attitude, and dark humor lyrical twists.

emi0031.jpg
The site was designed by Burnttoast45