As Radiohead's Kid A was screw pop, Radiohead's The Bends is a screw Pablo Honey. Pablo Honey in my opinion was Radiohead's only screw up as a band the only album were they relied on MTV to promote the only three greats on the album, Arguably "Creep, Stop Whispering, Thinking About You". Were on "The Bends", every song on the album has something great about it.
The point that I am trying to make is that Radio head could have gave this the Green Day treatment and released every song as a single. But different from the band Green Day all Radiohead singles wouldn't sound the same. They all have a different kind of an acoustic pop kind of quality about them, besides the haunting closer "Street Spirit [Fade Out], which provides a preview of Radiohead's second masterpiece in a row "Ok Computer". Something Radiohead always does is provide a preview of there next album with the last song on their current album. The last song on "Pablo Honey" was kind of a deep soft song which previewed the classics on The Bends "Fake Plastic Trees, and "High And Dry".
"The Bends", gets off to a great start with the song "Planet Telex", the song kind of sounds like "Optimistic", off Kid A in the chorus, but it still gives a lyrical quality and sound that give you the notion that it sounds more like "Airbag" on "Ok Computer". It combines the two albums perfectly, It provides a preview of the pop-quality that this album has. It also has some deeper lyrics than the lyrics on "Pablo Honey", which tells fans that this album is going to be a whole different album. Radiohead's first song successfully previews the album and is an effective opener.
The title track "The Bends",is a song that sounds like a cannon has been shot off it is not an acoustic track but it combines great drum work with some solid and catchy guitar work and it is also the first song that Radiohead clearly makes fun of the government in and does it in a way that isn't dark and depressing. That's what I love about this track it is the track that you can tell that Radiohead is having a great time and contains a great chorus and lyrical work: "I wish it was the 60's/ I wish we could be happy/ I wish that something would happen". The Bends is a song that contains the fun loving lyrics of Pablo Honey but the lyrics have meaning and the song has better structure than most songs on Radiohead's first album.
"High And Dry", is a classic track. It is a soft acoustic track that really doesn't hit any high emotion but the lyrical work and acoustic guitar work really makes it pull through. The acoustic guitar makes it seem like a very mellow and calm track, and Yorke's vocals in the chorus are very original and hard to duplicate. And it contains one of my favorite choruses of all time even though it is very simple. The surrounding lyrical content in this song is also very strong: "When your insides fall to pieces/ Your just sitting there wishing you could still make love." You can tell Thom lyrics aren't as spooky and aren't one liners like the ones on "Kid A and Ok Computer" this is a brilliant track.
"Fake Plastic Trees" is another great track, it kinds of sounds like the previous track even though the lyrics are more thundrous, even though it is still an acoustic track, and a very good one. This is a classic Radiohead song where you can feel Thom's emotion singing the whole song, when at the end he almost has a complete breakdown. The lyrics are very simple and about a relationship but Thom emotion is what makes this song great. It is somewhat brilliant how this song is structured: It has the perfect beat, Perfect lyrics, and perfect emotion. The song made it as a bit of a Radio hit for the band, but didn't come close to the success of Radiohead's first big single: "Creep".
"Bones", is a good song but nothing compared to the first four songs of the album. The song sounds kind of like "The Bends", because it has the rock-out feel to it with simple chord progression but it doesn't flow as well in this song. The opening start out with distorted vocals, unlike anything we have seen from Radiohead at this point and it comes out with a sudden outbreak in the chorus. If you look up to the lyrics to the surrounding lines they are really clever, if Radiohead found a way to make these lyrics more clear this song could be one of the highlights of the album. The guitar solo finishes the good song.
"Nice Dream", is another acoustic track but this one isn't as aggressive in lyrical content as the other two acoustic songs so far, the song sounds a little bit like the previous two acoustic tracks but not having it's own orignality like "High And Dry" chrous, and "Fake Plastic Trees" emotion it really takes away from this song. "High And Dry and Fake Plastic Trees" contained lyrical emotion that this song just doesn't have. But the end of the song is just awesome, as Thom says: "Nice Dream" and the background accompanies him with: "If you think that you are struggling". The instrumental solo proves just how much better Radiohead have gotten with their instruments and add's some more emotion to this song.
"Just", is a classic Brit-pop song. This song contains a harder beat than the previous track and the guitar work sounds cool and it goes along with great drum work from Phil and it sets up the song perfectly. The lyrical content starts off very good and Radiohead like weird and it all progresses into a timeless chorus which is perfectly displayed in the video. Thom screams: "You Do it to Yourself" in the chorus several times through but a change of rhythm and emotion during this chorus is what makes this song great. The pre-chorus is also great: "But when I get to you", this is just a classic Brit-pop song.
"My Iron Lung", is a song were Thom's vocals are to soft it seems like if the beat wasn't so hard and the guitar and drums weren't so hard it could be aan even better. . The song is a rock-out song containing some very emotional lyrics and a good beat. But Thom's vocals aren't clear enough to make this a great song. "The My Iron Lung EP", was released after "The Bends" and contains a few good B-sides and an acoustic version of "Creep"
If it wasn't for "How To Disappear Completely and Motion Picture Soundtrack" on "Kid A", "Bulletproof", maybe the most beautiful song Radiohead has ever done. The ninth track contains very good guitar work that fits Thom's soft and mellow and it leads into a very beautiful chorus even though I can't hear the drums in this song, The chorus is as emotionally charged as the breakdown in "Fake Plastic Trees" and the lyrical content is as strong as "Street Spirit". I hate how this acoustic song is always overlooked because of all the other great songs on the album. This is a great and beautiful song.
"Black Star", is a song that was a classic until the acoustic version was remade to the album version. In the real version the band mostly uses the "D" Chord simillar to on the 2nd track of the album "The Bends".The song is still great it just seems overproduced from the simple acoustic version. The chorus in this song has to be one of my favorite of all-time: "Blame it on the black stars/ Blame it on the falling sky/ Blame it on the satellites/, are just some of the strong lyrical content found in this song. The lyrics are strong and useful in this Radiohead almost classic.
"Sulk, is one of the most overlooked Radiohead songs of all-time, it sounds kind of like "Just" in the guitar work and the drum work is very solid.It may just be the spot it is on in this album, or that in the lyrics it sounds just like "Planet Telex". But it has a good beat and good chorus but still is just an alright song for this album's standards.
Nothing can lead into the last song of this album, absolutely nothing. "Street Spirit", is one of my favorite songs of all-time and it leads into Radiohead's next masterpiece "Ok Computer" perfectly. How so"The song starts out with a spooky guitar solo that leads into Thom's powerful vocals the guitar work is the most solid work Radiohead has done to date, Well, the lyrical content is haunting like most of the songs on "Ok Computer", it is very experimental for Radiohead at the time, like the songs on "Ok Computer". The song individual as a song on "The Bends", contains another one of my favorite choruses by this band, the best instrumental work Radiohead have done up to this point, and is the best single from this album.
Individual Track Ratings
1. Plant Telex 4.5/5
2. The Bends 5/5
3. High And Dry 5/5
4. Fake Plastic Trees 5/5
5. Bones 4/5
6. Nice Dream 4/5
7. Just 5/5
8. My Iron Lung 4/5
9. Bulletproof 5/5
10. Black Star 4.5/5
11. Sulk 3.5/5
12. Street Spirit [Fade Out] 5/5
This is my favorite Radiohead album, because it combines the pop-sense of Pablo Honey and the strong lyrical content of the bands next album "Ok Computer". It also contains six songs that have perfect scores in my opinion, that is more than half the album. The weakest track is a 3.5/5, which means the rest of the 6 tracks either were 4 or 4.5, that is the consistency that makes this a classic album in my opinion. Though this album is still overlooked in the 90's by some other great releases from U2, Oasis, and Weezer, this album has still got credit from many sources such as Rolling Stone magazines 500 greatest albums.
Edit: Described the sound more