The Bends (Special Collector's Edition) review by Radiohead

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  • Released: Mar 24, 2009
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 10
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9.3 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.2 (31 votes)
Radiohead: The Bends (Special Collector's Edition)
3

Sound — 9
With the reissue of Radiohead's first 3 albums Pablo Honey, The Bends, and OK Computer, it becomes distinctly obvious just how far the British alternative group came in the course of just a few releases. The most evident musical leap arrives with the second record The Bends, an album credited with changing the course of alternative music. Whether or not you assign that much responsibility to the album, The Bends still does what many albums are unable to accomplish balancing melody with instrumental inventiveness. The 2-disk reissue of The Bends features the original release, as well as 21 bonus songs that had previously been B-sides, acoustic takes, or BBC Sessions. While many of Pablo Honey's reissue highlights come from the second disk, The Bends' original 12 tracks are still the driving force. From the opening track Planet Telex, it's evident that guitarists Jonny Greenwood, Ed O'Brien, and Thom Yorke have delved deeply into the world of effects. The heavy digital delay heard on the first track and so many others are one aspect that builds the huge wall of sound on the record. My Iron Lung marks one of the huge standouts on the album, accentuating all the best about Radiohead, whether that be the unusual effects, the interaction between the guitars and vocals, or the explosive finale. Apparently Radiohead felt extreme pressure/stress while making the album, namely because there was a push to live up to the success of Creep. Whatever went down in the recording studio worked tenfold, as the band has a stronger sense of melody all the way across. It's readily apparent in the stripped-down singles High And Dry or Fake Plastic Trees, but even the bigger productions show off the band's songwriting prowess. Another story says that Yorke recorded the vocal track for Fake Plastic Trees directly after seeing Jeff Buckley, known for his cherubic vocals, perform in concert. Whatever Yorke's influence, the album thrives on the singer's falsetto, which peaks in the haunting Street Spirit (Fade Out). The rarer tracks on the second disk are no throwaways, and it's pretty amazing how B-sides could match the quality of some of the singles. Included in the extra material are various B-side songs from the EP singles My Iron Lung, High And Dry/Planet Telex, Fake Plastic Trees (several acoustic tracks are featured on this selection), Street Spirit (Fade Out), as well as 4 songs recorded during a BBC Session from 1994. At the top of the list are the Middle-Eastern-tinged Molasses and the mid-tempo India Rubber, which features harmonies that show off Yorke's lower vocal range.

Lyrics — 10
Radiohead didn't just leave the musical comfort zone on The Bends. The lyrical content is no longer quite as focused on internal conflict (I.e., Creep), and instead takes an outward glance. The focus is much more on those with hang-ups around Yorke, whether it's in High And Dry (Two jumps in a week; I bet you think that's pretty clever don't you boy; Flying on your motorcycle: Watching all the ground beneath you drop), or Just (Don't get my sympathy; Hanging out the 15th floor; Changed the locks three times; He still comes reeling through the door). Regardless of who the songs are about, it's the overall lyrical layout that set songs truly apart from Radiohead's previous works.

Overall Impression — 9
Plenty of time has passed since it's release in the mid-90s, but it's hard to not once again be impressed by The Bends. The record didn't receive quite as many accolades as it's successor OK Computer, but it did mark a turning point for Radiohead. The band no longer relies on the traditional rock song format, and in many ways The Bends is fueled by those quiet, introspective numbers. Yes, there does seem to be a huge increase in the amount of effects used, but for every sonic-sounding tune there is a stripped-down acoustic. The original record is powerful enough to make the reissue memorable, but when you have bonus tracks that could stand on their own, it only reinforces why Radiohead has the clout that it does today.

17 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Road Eyes
    The_Teleblaster wrote: RaDiOhEaDfAn121 wrote: the Bends wasn't experimental rock. The Bends was more pop oriented than the others that would follow. Radiohead wasn't influenced by Pink Floyd and I don't know about U2 but I think it's unlikely. Johnny Greenwood even said that he only liked one of Pink Floyd's albums and I think it was "Meddle." I mean just because "Paranoid Android" was a bit over six minutes long doesn't make them like Pink Floyd. Pink Floyd is my favourite band and Radiohead up there with it. If you can not draw the parallels between the two then you are an idiot. The themes play on the same issues, such as paranoia and angst as well as the music sounding very similar. They both draw from experimental roots, with albums focussing on a sole underlying theme. Open your ears!
    Yeah i'd agree with that, particulalry about the idea of the undelying theme to an album and about issues, particulalry with reagrds to OK Computer and DSOTM. Both Radiohead and Pink Floyd tend to have quite both a layered and a distinctly signature sound. Neither band has been afriad to change with the times either.
    emidog
    Somnambulance wrote: Tallman1984 wrote: emidog wrote: I read in a book that an interviewer once asked the band about how they felt about becoming the next U2? the band asked, "Who's U2?" that's why radiohead is awesome. I did not know that. That quote is flippin amazing. I think they'd have been a more U2-like band today had Thom Yorke not gotten writer's block and written their best album to date (Kid A) imo.
    Kid A is their best album. I think their only getting better too. Just as long as they don't let the industry corrupt the band they will stay the best band ever.
    duncang
    dobby240 wrote: Genre: Rock YOU WHAT?!? theyre boring as ****! no way is this crap metal!
    Uh...just as well it says 'rock', then. Checked.
    O44chad44O
    Ooooooh I understand now. U2. Like the Danelectro U2. I really dig those. I wonder why the members of Radiohead don't? I mean, I realize they are only single coil lipstick pickups and all, but I feel like Jonny could really rock out on one. Or maybe they have never heard of them? They should definitely check one out at their favourite local music shoppe.
    dobby240
    Genre: Rock YOU WHAT?!? theyre boring as ****! no way is this crap metal!
    RadioMuse
    greenwoodfan93 wrote: wtf? The band didn't form when they were all in Oxford University!
    True: I'm pretty sure none of them actually attended Oxford... They met at Abbington school during what would be middle and/or high school years.
    Somnambulance
    Tallman1984 wrote: emidog wrote: I read in a book that an interviewer once asked the band about how they felt about becoming the next U2? the band asked, "Who's U2?" that's why radiohead is awesome. I did not know that. That quote is flippin amazing.
    I think they'd have been a more U2-like band today had Thom Yorke not gotten writer's block and written their best album to date (Kid A) imo.
    Echoplex
    The_Teleblaster wrote: RaDiOhEaDfAn121 wrote: the Bends wasn't experimental rock. The Bends was more pop oriented than the others that would follow. Radiohead wasn't influenced by Pink Floyd and I don't know about U2 but I think it's unlikely. Johnny Greenwood even said that he only liked one of Pink Floyd's albums and I think it was "Meddle." I mean just because "Paranoid Android" was a bit over six minutes long doesn't make them like Pink Floyd. Pink Floyd is my favourite band and Radiohead up there with it. If you can not draw the parallels between the two then you are an idiot. The themes play on the same issues, such as paranoia and angst as well as the music sounding very similar. They both draw from experimental roots, with albums focussing on a sole underlying theme. Open your ears!
    Listen to "Pigs (three different ones)" and "Anyone can play guitar."
    Tallman1984
    emidog wrote: I read in a book that an interviewer once asked the band about how they felt about becoming the next U2? the band asked, "Who's U2?" that's why radiohead is awesome.
    I did not know that. That quote is flippin amazing.
    Nafon
    Serjem wrote: yep.. they finally ran out of songs. whey
    Read the first comment.