Radiohead - The Bends - Review
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critics' view

Thom Yorke and his band of merry men have taken the musical landscape and toyed, spliced and even at times mollycoddled it. Where most bands pick a path and stick to it, the Oxford five-piece have danced over and beyond various musical landscapes, carving out a unique hollow for others to marvel at. But before they achieved such a status, Radiohead had some establishing to do.

At a time when the main argument in the music industry was Blur vs. Oasis, Radiohead were following up their debut Pablo Honey with a more progressive move towards the largely unpopular art rock movement. The Bends sounded different. Why? It had subtle creativity at its core. Producer John Leckie, who also produced Pink Floyd, gave the band an unprecedented freedom of expression and the band had more than enough ability to take the ball and run…

The first track Planet Telex feels genuinely refreshing even thirteen years later. Further on, High and Dry and Fake Plastic Trees are simply acoustic treats – stirring and poignant. Bones swiftly picks up the mood before Just blows most of the previous tracks out of the water, with the gain whacked up to ten and '90s guitar solos aplenty. Street Spirit (Fade Out), although notoriously downbeat contains one of the most recognizable guitar riffs in musical history. Accompany that with haunting harmonies and a string section and it all amounts to a stunning finish to the album.

Popular opinion places OK Computer as Radiohead's finest release to date, yet the The Bends was where they really put themselves firmly into the public consciousness. On the title track, Yorke sings, ''where do we go from here?'' like he didn’t have a plan…Luckily for us, he had a pretty good one.

David McGuire
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The BBC's album reviews ended in 2013, although the pages are archived for retrospective reading.
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