Welcome readers! After a shaky start to the year (very much an earthquake pun, 22/02/11 has rendered my house very damaged), I'd like to return to NFF with a review trilogy of my favorite band Radiohead and their finest studio achievements; The Bends, OK Computer and Kid A
Release Date: 03/13/95
Genre: Alternative Rock/BritPop
The Bends is an album released by Radiohead, a British band during a musical and cultural movement that occurred in the mid-to-late 1990s known as "Cool Brittania", leading to a renaissance in guitar-driven rock in Britain. Inspired by beat bands of the 1960s and the alternative rock explosion that followed after Nirvana's 1991 single "Smells Like Teen Spirit", the movement was known as BritPop, producing bands such as Blur and Oasis.
Radiohead was formed in Oxford, 1985 by lead singer Tom Yorke and was influenced by the Post-Punk and New Wave indie scene of the 1980s. Upon the release of Smells Like Teen Spirit, Radiohead adopted a grunge sound that lead to their debut album, Pablo Honey and lead single, "Creep". Both Creep and Pablo Honey were successful in the UK Singles & Albums Charts, but both failed to make a dent on the Billboard 100 & 200, respectively. This would come to be the trademark of all the marquee acts of BritPop.
The Bends is an introspective album, evolving on the ideas of Pablo Honey. Lyrically, Tom Yorke uses wider ideas and concept in an introspective, personal way that gives his ideas greater depth. Based around the guitar-driven BritPop style, the songs are all energized and don't feel "light"; yet feel personal and soft. The tracks are all an ode to the versatility of the guitar, with Tom Yorke's falsetto giving them a personal touch.
01. Planet Telex
02. The Bends
03. High And Dry
04. Fake Plastic Trees
06. (Nice Dream)
08. My Iron Lung
09. Bullet Proof... I Wish I Was
10. Black Stars
12. Street Spirit (Fade Out)
"Planet Telex" - Track 1
"Planet Telex", the albums opening track, is based around a simple synth keyboard-drum loop fusion scale that dominates the intro and choruses, which contrasts with guitar chords and further synths that dominate the verses and air out the chorus. Ultimately however, the sound is guitar-driven and slow-tempo. Planet Telex adds musical complexity to lyrics based around fears and conflict with a hostile world, ripping apart a persons psyche, which is echoed in the musical tone of the verses. Yet in the chorus, the synth keyboard-drum loop fusion contrasts with this, giving the idea of a new, superior, advanced order. This contrast creates a nice hook.
"The Bends" - Track 2
The albums title track is based around a churning guitar song, soaring lyrics and a drum-dominated bridge. The Bends is an excellently constructed song, with an addictive, soaring chorus hook and shows excellent guitar chord versatility. The drums are very muted and give the bridge a metallic feel; both the chorus and bridge contrast excellently with each other and are both aided by Yorke's higher-range vocals. The lyrics are introspective, facing alienation and desperation while still feeding off the soaring guitar's energy in the chorus.
The soaring guitar ultimately gives the song an energized feeling, while sparing use of the guitar in the bridge and verses adds to the paranoia and desperate mood being conveyed.
"Fake Plastic Trees" - Track 4
The lightest track on the album, "Fake Plastic Trees" is a melancholy song about a personal breakdown. The song is of two halves; the first is based around slow-tempo acoustic guitar and light electric guitar, drums and synths, while the second half is characterized by a simple, soaring electric guitar with screeching vocals, before returning to its original state. FPT is the granddaddy of Coldplay's earlier work.
"Street Spirit (Fade Out)" - Track 12
Often regarded as the best track on the album, Yorke himself described the song as "a dark tunnel with no light at the end". "Street Spirit" is based around a guitar scale, aided by a simple drum beat and haunting synths as the song progresses. The lyrics entail morality and death, as the song has a stripped-down, destructive feel. The entire song is the same, but this is a strength of it: it never lets up. there's nothing to save you, no salvation. There's no light at the end of the tunnel. Which is one chilling end to an album.
The Bends is a strong, complex and ultimately versatile exploration of morality and traditional, guitar-driven rock in an experimental, innovative way. THERE IS NO FILLER ON THIS ALBUM: Every track can hold its own and each one does, all while painting the picture, of a world that is attacking us. The definitive introvert album and the definitive rock album of BritPop, many compare The Bends to Revolver for good reason: consistency and timelessness. Both are clever, both are sharp. And like Revolver, The Bends is one of the best albums of all time.