The sophomore album by the alternative rock band Radiohead was released at the height of the Britpop era, and this is evident in some of the music present on The Bends. This would later turn out to be their last, rather conventional, album, as the layered music and abstract lyrics (present at times in this record) would become signature to the band and their music. In saying that, even with its comparative simplicity, the album as a whole is brilliantly structured and varied, and this resulted in the beginning of the mass appeal towards Radiohead. This early success would ultimately allow their subsequent releases (of abstract and unconventional ideas) to get the major initial interest of critics and listeners alike.
“High and Dry”, is the type of song Radiohead would never again make, a track that Thom Yorke himself says is ‘very bad’. Maybe their most accessible pop-hit, it is still regarded as a fan favourite, although never played live anymore. An album highlight, “Fake Plastic Trees”, follows that. One of their greatest songs, an utterly hopeless lyric and the fact that this is easily relatable, make it deeply affecting, but strangely comforting and natural (If I could be who you wanted). Album standout, “Just”, is simply, one of their best ‘rock’ songs. The music and vocals are great, and the main hook is as relatable as lyrics get, “you do it to yourself.”
“Black Star” continues the sense of hopelessness as Yorke finds himself blaming anything and everything for the misfortune (in this case, reads like a mentally ill/alcoholic girlfriend) that he has no control over. The album’s best song, “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”, is as explained by Yorke, ‘about staring the fucking devil right in the eyes… and knowing, no matter what the hell you do, he’ll get the last laugh.’ Dark, captivating and just pure Radiohead, the song feels as draining as Yorke suggests it is. The track is arguably their strongest album closer (which is more impressive than it sounds, considering the closer is usually one of the best tracks off their respective album), and has a justified claim to being their greatest song.
If you have failed to like the Radiohead of late (electronic/experimental), this is likely to be your favourite record by the band, with maybe the exception of OK Computer. Almost every rock artist (or any artist really) would be proud to have The Bends as their magnum opus, as it is widely regarded as one of the most influential and important records of its time. This is noteworthy as the majority of listeners/critics would now only regard this as their third or fourth greatest album, just going to show how much of an impact these guys have had on music since their inception. This record is the first real milestone achievement of an almost unparalleled discography in recent memory.
Top Songs – “Fake Plastic Trees”, “Just”, “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”