Review Summary: Radiohead for rockers.
After the death of the grunge scene, the U.S. needed to know who the next big band would be. Nobody expected Radiohead, written off by many critics as "one-hit wonders" and "Just another alternative band" due to their major hit "Creep". "The Bends" is Radiohead's answer to the people.
"The Bends" takes the guitar-focus from "Pablo Honey" and the meaningful lyrics that would later be on "OK Computer" and makes the best out of them. You can also notice that Thom Yorke's vocals have improved drastically, along with his ability to write songs. "Pablo Honey" lacked reason and meaning, making it rather uninteresting. Thom seemed to have noticed, because those characteristics are for sure present. Hell, the whole album seems like a tweaked-to-near-perfection version of "Pablo Honey". You can also notice hints of "The Bends" on the albums to come (like the sound of "Sulk" would later appear on "Kid A").
This is the most guitar-influenced record Radiohead has put out to date. There are a couple songs that would make excellent rock radio hits, such as "The Bends", "Just", and "Black Star". "My Iron Lung", a straight-forward hard rocker, has a great guitar solo and shows influence from bands such as Nirvana and Alice in Chains. This album is not without it's slow and sad songs, in fact no Radiohead album is. "High And Dry", "Bullet Proof... I Wish I Was", "Fake Plastic Trees" and "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" are those songs. They all are pulled off with flying colors, never falling short.
The instrumentation for this album has got to be the best from Radiohead. The guitarist does more solos than he has ever gotten to do to, and most of them are goosebump-worthy. He also makes some great catchy riffs on songs such as "The Bends", while on others helping set the mood along with Yorke's vocal style, such as on "High and Dry". The drums are also excellent, nothing too fancy, no fills or solos to be found. He still does a solid job, and that's really all he needs to do. I loved the use of piano because it sets this album apart from other alt. rock albums.
This album is often considered the second worst Radiohead album, but on many levels, it is the best. Almost every single album put out after "The Bends" is inconsistent or has songs that fall short. "The Bends" is one of the most flowing albums I own, and barely falls short at all. Thom's vocals are at his best on this album, almost never resorting to the high-pitched singing and yearning you hear oh-so often on "OK Computer" and "Kid A". When he does, he doesn't let it become out of control. He actually uses his voice, with pleasing results.
The cons for this album are very minor ones, like in some songs they use too many effects. The biggest culprit is obviously "Planet Telex", but that is pulled off brilliantly. I am talking about in songs such as "Sulk", where it would have worked out fine without. Other than that, there really are no apparent flaws on this blissful album. This still remains my favorite Radiohead album.
TOP 5 TRACKS:
High and Dry