The Bends by Radiohead

12 December 2019

When I first came across Radiohead’s second album, I was perplexed. Up till then, I had been raised on Radiohead’s later work, and I thought that this would be more of the sameelectronic beats and rhythms that had dominated much of the band’s career. Boy, was I wrong. Right from the opening sounds of pounding guitar and psychedelic synthesizer on the lyrically desperate and bitter “Planet Telex” , I knew I was in for a big surprise. From there, we get a back-and-forth pull between grunge-style rock and softer, acoustic solos. While that may have intrigued fans of their hit single “Creep”, it left me feeling confused and almost baffled. In fact, I even almost thought it was Radiohead’s worst album. Fortunately, by some stroke of luck, I had the chance to listen to it again, and thanks to that, I now see it in a new light. It is actually an album of astounding beauty, even with the ever-present lyrical brutality that haunts it. Although the album admittedly isn’t as cohesive as their later efforts (the unpredictable alternating between loud and soft song structures definitely makes for some uneven listening), for hardcore ‘Head and rock fans alike, there is plenty to enjoy on this album, despite not having much hit appeal (the soft, heartwrenching, and achingly beautiful song “Fake Plastic Trees” is the album’s only relatively well-known song, and for good reason too) The bottom line is, while The Bends may be strictly fans-only material and it’s definitely not perfect, it is nevertheless a rock masterpiece.

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