Review Summary: So it's basically Pablo Honey, but better.
Everyone knows who Radiohead are so there’s no real point in me going into vast description of their discography. The Bends is their second album, following Pablo Honey. Now Pablo Honey is easily Radiohead’s worst and for good reason; Boring structure; Bland lyrics; simple instrumentation and what have you. Now Radiohead certainly stepped their game up for The Bends, but not too much I’m afraid.
The Bends certainly is a much better album then aforementioned Pablo Honey. Probably the biggest improvement is also the simplest; the songs are just better. Where Pablo Honey suffered most of all was its lack of great hooks and catchy songs. And when a band has nothing really interesting to offer(at that point in their career) then you better have some decent choruses. The Bends is a vast improvement on that aspect. Every song has a very nice chorus that anyone would want to sing along to, and I greatly award it for that. Now earlier on in their career, at least before Kid A, Radiohead were nothing more than a rock band, at its very heart. There’s nothing to be blown away by the Bends, which is why I don’t give it a lot of credit, but as far as plain old rock albums go, The Bends is hard to beat.
The problem with The Bends is one that they didn’t really shed after Pablo Honey and it carries onto this album. Although it is a consistent effort with great rock tunes, there is a, how shall I put it, “wave” if you will, of mediocrity that permeates in these songs. There are no masterful qualities to the bulk of these songs(save Fake Plastic Trees and Street Spirit) that really show terrific musicianship. The band doesn’t push the songs to their full potential where they could really be truly inspiring anthems. The main reason I think is the constant structure that these songs are in. Now there are benefits and negativities to song structure; It can keep songs in line and going on track instead of turning into just over-done music wanking. But on the other hand, it also restricts songs and keeps them in a musical prison of strict configuration. And considering how unconventional and non-structured songwriting done later in Radiohead’s career,(which resulted in their greatest songs) it’s fair to say that The Bends suffers do to its ultimate structure.
This album is a good, conventional(predictable) album with some great, great songs. As far just writing better tunes, they exceed Pablo Honey by miles, even if the songs have the same basis and structure as on the last album. The Bends also displays the fact that at that point in their career, the band was still growing and maturing musically, and this really isn’t the epitome of Radiohead's potential or skill level. But it’s still got some fun in it, which I can dig.