After people dismissed Radiohead as one hit wonders with the unprecedented success of Creep; a track that lifted an otherwise average debut LP into a multi-million seller, the Oxford quintet took decisive steps with their second album. Namely not to even attempting to match the direct, incisive genius of that one off hit and to concentrate on emotional diversity in their lyrics and a more distinguished sound. In a reversal of the fortunes Creep bought them, the early singles charted in the lower end of the UK Top 30 with Radio 1 virtually refusing a minute of airplay. That was until the closing track Street Spirit (Fade Out) shot into the top five confirming it as an all time great anthem of misery and depression and The Bends as an all time great album, full stop. The fact that no fewer than six tracks from an album were hits is always a good sign, but little can prepare you for the epic brilliance that makes The Bends one of guitar music's greatest albums. Although not one of the greatest opening tracks ever, the feedback drenched Planet Telex; front man Thom Yorke sets the tone with the chilling couplet: "Everyone is broken/ Everything is broken." Throughout Yorke perfects his often incomprehensible falsetto that have made him one of the most recognisable voices in modern music. Track after track of musical genius follow. There are the acoustic based songs of High and Dry, Fake Plastic Trees and [Nice Dream], alongside the epic blasts of Black Star, The Bends, My Iron Lung and the brilliant Sulk. Fake Plastic Tress in particular is a fine example Radiohead's new approach of Yorke's unconventional, often rather meaningless lyrics, mellow use electric guitars and most importantly Yorke's child like vocals with the words often poorly pronounced. Somehow the combination is almost unbearably moving. The indecipherable vocals are such a priceless asset because they leave so much to the imagination. The listener often hears lyrics that often aren't the actual words, thus interpreting the songs, albeit accidentally, in their own way. Whatever you do, don't look at the words printed on the inside cover... The more abrasive tracks are less accessible, demanding repeated listening before properly revealing themselves. Yorke was understandably none to impressed with a journalist at the time who labelled The Bends as "the depression soundtrack of 1995." Unlike their previous work, this goes far before simple confession. Thus Bones with it's three guitars feeding back by about million miles, is not as Q magazine put it when the album was voted number 6 in it's reader's poll of The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time a toe-tapping evocation of osteoporosis, but a devastating image of psychological crumbling. If it is hard to choose a standout track it's only because nearly all of them are so brilliant. A strong candidate has to be the closing, Street Spirit (Fade Out). With it's instantly recognisable hook, Yorke's chilling vocal and strange lyrics, it provided the Radiohead with what was then their biggest hit to date and sent The Bends into the UK Album Top 5 after nearly a year on release. It still ranks as one of the most powerful and emotive songs to grace the UK charts. Perfectly encapsulating its parent album it manages through all the lyrical obsurity and metaphor to say its piece straight to the heart.
Any music fan does it ,over a period of time you find your bookshelfs being taken over by more and more cd,s.l How many could you definitely say you couldn`t live without though?. This album is as essential as oxygen to any person who "likes" music. "Fake plastic Trees" stands out as the best track on the album and the best track by any band in the last 10 years. There is absolutely no such thing as a filler track on this record ,Punch drunk from the Dynamism of "Planet telex" you,re quickly reeling from the "Bends" and a 12 round knockout is a mere formality. The burner is I believe "Black Star" but anything here would improve any other British Band of the last 10 year`s albums a hundred fold.You know that feeling when you,re hunting to put something on the CD player and you browse saying " I dont feel like listening to that now " Never happen with this epitaph to the century. Don,t believe me just listen to the samples and give up any hope of becoming a better musician than these guy`s.
Everybody talks about the brilliance of Radiohead's OK Computer album but for me The Bends is the greatest album not only by Radiohead but by any band in the whole world. This is the album I would take with me to a desert island if I was given a CD player and the choice of one CD! This is the album I put on to wash the dishes and tidy my house! This is the album I put on when I feel so crap I want to hide in my bed for ever more! It is simply the greatest album EVER and it is also an instantly lovable album!! In addition when it was released there was nothing on the market which came close and this made The Bends even more of a stand alone masterpiece. Choosing a favourite track from this album is near impossible because it features such ranging musical styles. On the melodic, spine tingling side we have High and Dry, Fake Plastic Trees and Street Spirit, possibly three of my favourite slow songs of all time. All three make me go weak at the knees as I listen to Thom's vocals but for me Street Spirit is the real stand out track with the most haunting chorus ever written or sang by anyone in the entire world. For the more upbeat tracks my favourites have to be The Bends, Bones and Just which all rock. Every time I hear the title track The Bends I can remember seeing Radiohead live at T In The Park in 1996 - as this song began the guitar and drum intro was accompanied by lighting which washed over the crowd from the stage across the sea of fans up to the sky and as it did so I can still remember the hair on the back of my neck standing on end and a rush of adrenaline sending me into a musical euphoria. If you have never heard this album than shame on you, get it ordered today because you are missing a piece of musical history. This is an album I will never grow tired of and never stop listening too. A real masterpiece in every way.
Lie back, close your eyes and listen to two of the greatest songs ever written appear back to back, I'm talking of course about "High and Dry" and "Fake Plastic Tress". This is genius at work. I have never heard emotion in a song that is so palpable as in "Fake Plastic Trees", it makes me shiver every time I hear it. As for the rest of the album, simply flawless. The problem is that by producing an album so perfect they have in effect given themselves no where else to go other than into the outlandish arms of Kid A which is a real shame. Make no mistake, the Bends is pure Radiohead. It will never be topped in my opinion, I just hope they ditch the techno babble of Kid A and at least have a go at bettering this.
This is the greatest radiohead album and the greatest album of the 90's. If you don't own this album you are missing out. The only other album which comes close is 'Ok Computer', however I think 'the bends' is better, only because it has a warmer feel to the cold mechanical,(but also brilliant) 'ok computer'. There isn't a weak song on the entire album. Thom Yorke's voice is at his best. At times the later albums, he can sound winey but it is stretched to perfection here. To thoughs who write off radiohead as 'depressing'. Are you emotionally dead? At times the songs can be sad, but they are always a joy to listen to. Songs are both about personal relationships and relationships between someone and the world. It expresses the the confusion of life in all its forms, that everyone must feel to some degree. However this album lifts you out of the choas and sweeps you across harmonies and melodies. The balance of songs on the album work really well, just as the album begins to flag, after the slow 'high and dry' and 'fake plasic trees', 'just' is thrashed out.'Just' is a stright out excellent rock song, nothing more nothing less. The best is saved to last, with 'street spirit (fade out)', about life, death and love. Thank god a band like this are still around.