Radiohead did strike with success with their early hit Creep but failed with the release of their first album, Pablo Honey. Now that Grunge was passing in popularity, it seemed like it was the right time for Radiohead to not only get their musical act together, but to shine as an artistic force. The release of this album changed everything for Radiohead in a big way. This is no doubt a great album, and is a great listen. Let’s take a listen to it, see how it fares.
We kick off with Planet Telex with spacey sounds at the beginning of the track, before going into an excellent sound effect laden rock groove. It sounds very awesome, and Thom Yorke sings in a unique falsetto and the whole band delivers extremely well. It’s an exciting listen with some artistic lyrics about it. A good piece of music that is wonderful to hear, even today. It sounds magically timeless and is a standout of the 1990s. Good effort by Radiohead. The drumming in particular here is very impressive.
Next is the title track The Bends which has an odd intro. This track is amazing, bursting into a rock classic that stands out in quality, even today. Thom Yorke sings some very impressionistic lyrics here, and some of them are extremely memorable, “…I wish it was the sixties, I wish we could be happy, I wish, I wish…I wish something could happen,” is a timeless example of lyricism of this song. All in all, a superb rock track to hear, and it sounds fantastic. A nice tune.
High and Dry is a melancholy piece with effects laden acoustic guitar that sounds wonderful. It is quite deep and sad listening. It’s not quite Grunge, but has a strange Grunge like mood about it. Radiohead deliver a fantastic tune for the mood when it strikes, and this is a great listen. A very deep and emotional listen, overall a great effort. The guitar solo has some great phrasing about it, a strong and definitely good effort. Sounds rather sad though.
Fake Plastic Trees is another melancholy piece that sounds wonderful and as though Thom Yorke is singing his heart out here. There is a low key organ piece in this, and the whole thing is bursting with beautiful melodic emotion. A tearjerker and a brilliant song through and through. The whole thing climaxes towards the end, and it is a terrific climax. A very sad song, but a great one at that. The lyrical peak towards the end of this song is really excellent.
Following is Bones which is a straightforward rock tune with some U2 like guitar sound effects. It is another great song that must be heard to experience it. Thom Yorke’s falsetto here is really great, and the whole song says nineties all over it. Alternative rock is not the best description for this music, but original music it is. It is an interesting and creatively inspired listen, and sounds loud and rocking. Relatively short, and over before you know it.
Next is (Nice Dream) which is an acoustically led piece at the beginning of the song, which sounds a little different to what has come previously. The singing here is melodramatic and there is a string section in the background which makes this piece sound different as well. A reassuring listen from Radiohead with dual vocals throughout, before climaxing with a brilliant electric guitar solo. It then goes back into the acoustic section, with some interesting whooshing noises in the background delivered by keyboard. Good tune.
Just comes next, and is more mainstream pop/rock than you’d expect from this album. A great listen, and, daresay it, fun to hear. The lyrics are pretty random, but that is fairly typical of Radiohead. Some unique Fender Telecaster sounds are here. This is not even OK Computer era yet, and the whole things sounds mega and brilliant, even today. Some scorching electric guitar solos are here, before Thom Yorke’s vocals return. Jonny Greenwood is a great guitarist, no question about it. This whole album, and indeed song, is a very good quality listen.
My Iron Lung has a weird slide guitar intro to it, before launching into a rock piece referring to said strange concept of the iron lung. It has some brilliant production and usage of sound effects here. It goes into a very loud chorus style section here, and just sounds wonderful. There is some super loud fuzz driven guitar here, particularly towards the end. It goes into a very Grungy like section of loud vocals, guitars and drumming. A strange and loud piece of music, particularly with the electric guitars. It ends with a crash.
Next is Bullet Proof…I Wish I Was which begins with some trippy sound effects, before going into an acoustic led rock piece that sounds deep and meaningful. It is proto Coldplay sort of material here, in fact, sounds like Coldplay took their early inspiration directly from this song. It is a quiet and melancholy rock music piece, which is well done. There are some great clean electric guitar parts here as well, and it ends with a spacey keyboard patch.
Following is the awesomely catchy Black Star which is another good and well thought out piece exhibiting a miserabilist feel about it. It is a great listen though, and is familiar Radiohead rock/pop music territory. Although this album is not OK Computer, it is still a solid classic with each and every song here. Very 1990s sounding, the reoccurring rock chord progression here is brilliant. Some strange lyrical concepts about stars and satellites in the sky in a comparison are here, another great listen is here.
Sulk comes next, with tremolo effected guitar parts and other memorable melodies here. It is a memorable and melodic listen from Radiohead, with Thom Yorke putting 100% into his vocal efforts here, as he does throughout the rest of the album. The theme of outer space in the music and some lyrics here is very good in this album. A strong and catchy piece, with a loudly distorted guitar solo. This is really quite unique and good simultaneously. It finishes with loads of distorted guitars.
Street Spirit (Fade Out) is the last track here, with memorable arpeggio rock riffs and acoustic playing to match as well. Thom Yorke puts in a killer vocal as well, this is one of the best songs from this album, and also of what Radiohead did overall in their career. It sounds beautifully depressing, but is so wonderful that it demands listening regardless. A super listen from start to finish, and it is very moving and listenable. No doubt an excellent and timeless listen. A great piece of pop/rock brilliance.
The Bends is one album of Radiohead’s, amongst many of them, that you must hear. It took various themes of 1995 and translated it into great music. It paved the way for future Radiohead successes, such as the OK Computer album. Regardless, you should hear this if you have not already. It’s superb.