The Bends is the sophomore album release from British alternative band Radiohead, and back in 1995 when it was released there would have been a considerable amount of pressure on the band. After the immense success of their angsty anthem "Creep", Radiohead either had to create a follow-up that delivered the goods, or risk being labeled just another one-hit-wonder. Luckily for them, The Bends refined and developed their sound far beyond that of their first full length, Pablo Honey.
Admittedly, most Radiohead fans dislike Pablo Honey for it’s lack of variety, and for the fact that their subsequent albums radiate a sense of completeness and musicality that far surpasses anything from their debut. The Bends is no exception. From beginning to end.
Unlike Radiohead’s later material which moved further towards an experimental and electronic style of music (for example: Kid A), it’s fair to loosely say that The Bends is Radiohead’s most traditional rock album. In a loose sense. I’m saying this because the album consists of traditional sounding guitars and drums, but is more classed as alternative rock. It’s different in a way.
Thom Yorke’s lyrics and vocals are great, and particularly shine on the more emotional numbers like "Fake Plastic Trees" and "Street Spirit (Fade Out)". His held falsetto never fails to amaze me in certain songs.
The sound of the guitars varies between numbers, and in some can really surprise in an instant. From the slow, and seemingly tame beginning, of "My Iron Lung", to the chorus that turns the distortion up to 11, the sound is great.
The album progresses through various songs that are belted out, to songs like "Bullet Proof..I Wish I Was", which contains a certain softening effect that seems no more out of place on the album than the addictive "Just". The album comes to a close with "Street Spirit (Fade Out)", which in my opinion is one of their saddest sounding songs. The emotion in Yorke’s voice is overwhelming, and brings the album to a fitting end.
You might not be into Radiohead at all. Especially their new stuff. I might be a fan, but I’m also aware that it isn’t for everyone and can take a while to get into. I was introduced to them through The Bends, and I think the sounds on the album are likable enough that it’s worth anyone trying. In my opinion, the album is truly great, with only a few songs that seem to let it down a little (High And Dry really doesn’t do that much for me).