251 of 277 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2004
The Bends. Radiohead's most accessible album. Radiohead's most underappreciated album at the time of its release. Dare I say Radiohead's BEST album?
Yes, OK Computer purists may find my statement inaccurate, but let me just ask you this, Radiohead fanatics... If you were to loan any Radiohead cd to someone who never heard their music before, which would it be?
Personally, The Bends was my introduction to the band in 1999... and I'm glad it was. Maybe 4 years too late, but hey - it's never too late right?
Anyway, this album is classic. Yorke is at his most comprehensible and his lyrics are more human than on future releases. This is the singer/songwriter at his most passionate. Deep, elegant songs like Fake Plastic Trees and High & Dry soar like the best U2 songs (One, With or Without You, etc).
Jonny Greenwood's uses of spacy guitar and keyboard effects adds mood to the pieces while the rest of the band gels together so well, you don't even notice it.
If you're looking for a rock album that you can really fall in love with, rock out with, sing a long with... you get the idea. You can't go wrong with the Bends.
52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2005
You're sipping lemonade on a warm spring day, watching various modes of transportation sparkle productively in the distance; you've just discovered a new law of physics, and you're inhaling the scent of your neighbor's freshly mown grass mixed with orange tree blossoms. Normally, you would be in your low lit bedroom writing nihilistic poetry, but you've just heard a new album, The Bends, and it has inspired you to brave the sunshine and give in a little to your fundamental human need for social interaction. Unfortunately, as you brush away an excited butterfly, you realize that you don't really know that many people, and become more depressed as you face the fact that it will take more than just stepping outside your door to find like-minded individuals to have silly fun with. This album makes you want to make that effort. Just as an indulgent energy-rich breakfast can be a catalyst for a glorious day of intellectual stimulation, so The Bends has become a honeycomb of new possibilities in the seemingly pointless lives of countless individuals.
There is rock music on this album that will make you move your body, but there is also a cohesive latticework of lurid spontaneity that causes the listener to hear each song as a charming facet of a youthful personality. The lead singer's voice is actually fun to listen to because it relates so well to the music. Sometimes Thom Yorke sounds like a sneering, cynical English fellow (Just, My Iron Lung), and sometimes he sounds like an orphaned angel (Nice Dream, Bullet Proof..I Wish I Was). The last song, Street Spirit (Fade Out), stares a brooding swarm of nothingness in the eye and finds unparalleled beauty. While the music on this album has a more traditional radio-friendly rock sound than their later work, it is certainly no less moving.
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2005
After the success of their debut album "Pablo Honey," Radiohead returned in 1995 with the highly-anticipated "The Bends." Now personally, I was not a very big fan of their debut album. It had a few high points but the rest was just boring and flat. I truly believe that if it wasn't for their sophomore album, Radiohead could quite easily have slipped off into obscurity to join a long line of other bands who were so 'promising.' However, that didn't happen because the world caught onto The Bends and rightly hailed it as one of the best albums of the 1990's. I don't consider this Radiohead's best album. Nor do I consider it a monumental masterpiece. It is a fantastic rock album though, and definitely amongst one of the best records I own in my 200+ collection.
The album opens with the brilliant "Planet Telex." The sonic soundscapes of this song's introduction are very memorable, and set the scene for the rest of the song. Thom's vocals are very distinctive on this song and I enjoy the chorus a lot. The album's title track, "The Bends," is the next song and is one of my favourites on the whole album. A lot of people don't really like this song but I bloody love it. It gets off to a rocking start and has a very anthemic chorus, but my favourite part of the song is the part where Thom sings, "I wish it was the sixties, I wish I could be happy, I wish, I wish, I wish that something would happen!" The next song is "High And Dry" and is a bit slower and more melancholy than its predecessors. The sunlight vocals of the chorus are very effective and the guitar in the chorus is great too - very similar to something Oasis were doing at the same time. "Fake Plastic Trees" is a fan favourite and is even slower than the mid-tempo track before it. I find the chorus very emotional and raw considering its 'fake' lyrical content - which is, I suppose, is what the song is aiming for.
"Bones" returns to the all-out rocking that dominated the opening of the album, with brash guitars and electrifying choruses, littered with eccentric vocals. It's not one of the best songs on the album, but it's still a great addition. "(Nice Dream)" is a very beautiful and deep rock ballad. I find this a great song as I listen to it because it just connects to you, but once you stop listening to the album and try to think of the melody of the song, I guarantee you won't remember. Very strange. "Just" is one of the album highlights and one of Radiohead's best ever songs. There's something about this song which makes it very unique and special yet on first-listen it sounds just very run-of-the-mill. The jittery guitars in the chorus that climb higher and higher make it a masterpiece in its own right.
"My Iron Lung" is another one of my favourite songs on the album. It has that instantly recognisable opening which runs again through the choruses that just twists and snakes its way around the lyrics. The way those lyrics are arranged is also very catchy and the song breaks out into a really heavy rocker near the second minute. "Bulletproof..I Wish I Was" is a gloomy yet oh-so-gorgeous ballad with some great soundscapes which create a beautifully atmospheric backdrop to Thom's dark vocals. "Black Star" is another one of my favourite songs from the album, yet again, because of the way the lyrics in the verses are arranged. It is so bloody catchy and I love how the song opens by becoming louder. It's as if we're arriving mid-song and we've missed something at the start. "Sulk" has a superb opening that sounds like something vibrating and bouncing off your speakers. The song itself has a great beat to it but I'm not too fond of the chorus. And then of course, there's the album closer, which is widely-hailed as one of Radiohead's finest-ever songs: "Street Spirit (Fade Out)." The music on this song is beautiful and melancholy, Thom's vocals juxtaposing this with fear and depression. I love the way he goes from a hushed note to a loud yelp within the space of "Fade out again." An absolutely beautiful song to close such a brilliant rock album.
OVERALL GRADE: 10/10
"The Bends" isn't my favourite Radiohead album. That title belongs to "OK Computer," and even "Kid A," in my opinion, is better than this second album. I'm a man of musical complexity - the weirder it is, the more I'll usually like it. It's a challenge to appreciate the music on OK Computer and Kid A, and I do appreciate it, after many listens, which is why I love them so much. I really took to "The Bends" quite easily so it was almost instantaneous that I loved it. Some people may not take to this album as well as I did, but out of all their six studio albums, I'd recommend this as the first one you listen to.
34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2002
Since the Bends turned Radiohead into one of the world's preeminent rock bands, the band has moved away from the more traditional song structures featured on The Bends in favor of new ways to express their themes of alienation, isolation, and seething rage.
But the Bends is still Radiohead's best work, and for obvious reasons. Epic in scope without being self-indulgent, The Bends takes the distorted guitars of grunge and adds a sense of melodrama and good old rock-n-roll majesty that, at that time, had been missing from popular music for almost two decades. In blending the two together, along with adding their own distinctly British personality, Radiohead makes The Bends a landmark recording that still feels fresh today seven years after its initial release.
The record has that wonderful touch of arrogance that transforms the band from one-hit brooders (as on "Creep") to bonafide rock gods. The guitars on the opening "Planet Telex" thunder in, heralding the band's arrival to the rock stratosphere, and the album just goes and goes from there. Every song works, be it balls out rock songs ("Bones"), or quieter, ghostly pieces ("Street Spirit," "Fake Plastic Trees"). All of it is tied together by lead singer Thom Yorke's voice. Credit Yorke with somehow making a voice that should, by all accounts, be incredibly irritating resonate and echo in the mind of the listener. It's alternately haunting, raging, and powerful; even making the transition from gentle lullabying to Billy Idol-quality snarling in the course of a single song ("Nice Dream"). It's a wonderful performance, and the band underneath matches him note for note.
Radiohead has released records more complex (OK Computer), more challenging (Kid A), and more ambiguous (Amnesiac) than The Bends. But they've never made a better record. And, in a way, that's a good thing. Free from the burden of having to create their rock masterpiece (which this is), they've branched out in new directions to see how far they can push the outer limits of both their music and their collective psyche. It is that later work that makes Radiohead one of the world's most important bands, but it is The Bends that makes them [behind] kicking rock stars. And everybody loves the latter.
28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2009
A correction to start: The Amazon listing shows 18 tracks on Disc 2 when, in fact, there are 21 tracks. Amazon forgot to list these three from the "Fake Plastic Trees" single. These three songs are found at tracks 11,12 and 13 on Disc 2 of the "Bends" reissue:
Fake Plastic Trees (Live Acoustic)
Bulletproof....I Wish I Was (Live Acoustic)
Street Spirit (Live Acoustic)
"The Bends" was the disc that caused anyone paying attention in 1995 to realize that Radiohead was going to be a contender. Their mostly-by-the-numbers-alt-rock-format debut disc from 1993 called "Pablo Honey" was, well...somewhat promising, but not really earth-shattering. They had hit the charts fairly big with the late-breaking "Creep" single (which flopped in the UK the first time around), but the title of this one is a clear reference to the discomfort they were feeling from the increasing numbers of so-called fans coming to their shows--many just for that one "I'm a Weirdo" song. The condition known as the bends is a painful onset of wide-ranging physical problems facing those who transition too quickly from high to low pressure, usually associated with surfacing fast after diving in the depths of a body of water---i.e. Radiohead was experiencing the pain of "rising" quickly. In fact, the single that preceded the album release, "My Iron Lung", is directly about this very issue of "Creep" becoming a both a "life-support" as well as a giant millstone around the band's collective neck.
Not much on "Pablo Honey" prepared the listener for the excellence of their second outing, a time at which many bands have been known to display the notorious "sophomore slump". Instead, Radiohead demonstrated exponential development from that debut disc to this one. "The Bends" relied much less on the "needles in the red" three guitar assault that was trotted out time and again on "Pablo Honey". The "Bends" opener, "Planet Telex", with its fast-tremolo guitar sounds, repeated/delayed keyboard signals, and distorted off-kilter beat and vocals, sends the strong message right off the bat that this band is not afraid to experiment and test the boundaries (something they would do in abundance by the end of the decade with "Kid A"). Nearly half of the disc never rises above a mellow, acoustic vibe--much of this quieter territory is explored this time out compared to the very short stretch of "Pablo Honey" that visited a more mellow zone. A share of the harder songs still had the soft versus /loud choruses dynamics of the textbook early 90's alternative rock song going ("Bones", "Just", "My Iron Lung", "Black Star"), but it is clear from the overall collection of 12 songs on Disc 1 that Radiohead are pulling away from the expectations of their little niche in the Rock world. Seen in hindsight, this disc is a natural mid-point between the raw guitar-driven debut of "Pablo Honey" and the more experimental and distinctive "OK Computer" that would follow this disc by two years.
This period was extremely prolific for Radiohead; they had a hard time selecting the 12 songs to go on the album and were left with essentially more than an entire CD worth of unreleased recordings, usually of very high quality, for their B-sides. Disc 2 contains four BBC session recordings that are rarities as well as all of the "regular" mixes of the 14 studio B-sides released on the "Bends"-era singles (and the three live acoustic songs I mentioned at the beginning). This lengthy second disc is far from comprehensive, however; many of the songs released during the year and a half or so around the album release are not to be found here. By my count, there are another 14 songs released mostly as B-sides or promos in this period (they are all alternate mixes/re-mixes of "Bends" era songs or live tracks) that did not make it to the reissue. This release could easily have added a third CD (instead of the DVD as the third disc on the "deluxe" version) to round up all of these missing items. Here's a list of what did not make it on the reissue bonus disc:
Planet Telex (hexadecimal mix) High and Dry single (CD2)
Planet Telex (l.f.o. jd mix) High and Dry single (CD1)
Planet Telex (Karma Sunra mix) Just single (CD1)
Killer Cars (Mogadon version) Just single (CD1)
Talk Show Host (Romeo + Juliet Soundtrack Remix Version)
Bones (Live At The Forum) Just single (CD2)
Planet Telex (Live At The Forum) Just single (CD2)
Just (Live At The Forum) US High and Dry single
Anyone Can Play Guitar (Live At The Forum) Just single (CD2)
(Plus all five songs on the Dutch "Pinkpop Edition"/Belgian "Live" promo EP):
Fake Plastic Trees (Live)
Blow Out (Live)
High And Dry (Live)
The other two 2009 2-disc reissues, "Pablo Honey" and "OK Computer", are much more comprehensive than this one in terms of containing virtually all released material from the same timeframe as the main album. This one certainly included the cream of the crop, but it fell short of serving the very customer base a release like this is aimed at--rabid Radiohead fans that want everything. It's a shame that this misses the remixes of the album's lead-off and most experimental tune, as these demonstrate the dawning signs of the band's open-mindedness regarding dance/electronic/hip hop music. They were surely the only guitar-oriented band commissioning such radical remixes in 1995, and they were telegraphing an affinity and willingness to color outside the lines that would certainly crop up later on their regular releases like "Kid A/Amnesiac".
You will have to do some further digging to get the full picture of the "Bends" era Radiohead, but this collection is the equivalent of a portrait that cuts off the top of one's head. Most of the important features are there, but there's something integral to the overall image that is missing.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on April 13, 2009
Some time in 1995, I walked into a music store and heard The Bends, Radiohead's second album, on the store's sound system. I purchased it immediately. The album was a huge breakthrough for Radiohead and it was, in this reviewer's opinion, along with the band's third album, OK Computer, one of the two best albums of the 1990s.
As most of those considering this box set already know, the music on The Bends is nothing short of amazing. It is beautiful and rocking guitar (often acoustic) based music (unlike many later Radiohead efforts), with ethereal and thought provoking vocals, colorful textures, and tasteful guitar leads. Thom Yorke (vocals) and Jonny Greenwood (lead guitar) really shine. It is a great, great album.
So what about this box set? Well, as with the other two recent re-releases of Radiohead's first three albums by the band's now former record company, it contains two audio CDs, one of the original album and one of ep tracks and/or B-sides and "live" tracks (here, from BBC Radio One), and one DVD containing videos and "live" tracks (here concert, studio and television footage). There are also less expensive sets just containing the two audio CDs.
About the sound quality. There has been some griping that the album has not been remastered. Keeping in mind that the album was first made for CD, and not all remastering is an improvement, it seems to me that the sound on these CDs -- although I found this more obvious on the Pablo Honey and OK Computer discs -- sounds better than I recall the original discs sounding. The 2CD/1DVD box sets are manufactured in the EU -- most likely in the UK --and seem to be excellent pressings. I do not know if the same is the case with the 2CD sets, but given the delay in the release of the box sets, I suspect that the 2CD sets are likely domestic.
As great as the first CD (containing The Bends album) is, it is remarkable how fine the second CD is. First, it contains all of the songs (other than the title track, which appears on the first CD) of the "My Iron Lung" ep, which was released in 1994, the year before the Bends was released (and following the Pablo Honey album). The second disc also contains B-sides from the singles released from The Bends album, and these include some of the band's finest B-sides, some really great tunes. Lastly, it includes four live songs from a 1994 BBC Radio One session. While Radiohead fans are likely to have many, or most, of the songs included on this second disc, it is nice to have them all together, and, for those who haven't acquired them already, at a much lower cost than purchasing all of the [import] singles. In response to the reviewer who complained that the same songs are available on-line for 99 cents each, but sorry, the sound quality here is superior to MP3 format.
The third disc is a DVD containing the videos from the album (amazing how young the band members look), concert footage from a 1994 London show (the same show featured on the Pablo Honey DVD) and live footage taken in the studio and from British television. While the video could have been better (the footage does not run consecutively for one thing) it is great to see the band rock out on the tunes, and the sound and video quality is very good. I'm certain that most of this footage can be found on-line, so it is up to the individual as to whether to pony up the extra dough for the box set. Like I said, however, the box set is an import containing some nice pressings of the audio CDs.
Lastly, about the record company cashing in, and that the band is not behind this. Yes, that may be true. But was the band behind the release of all those outrageously expensive import singles/B-sides, that should have been released, as they have been here, on a single CD? The nut of it is, the music is excellent (same of Radiohead's very best), and at the time of the writing of this review, Amazon is selling this thing at a steep discount from the release price (I'm waiting for a refund). Highly recommended.
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2000
I've never understood all the hype over OK COMPUTER and the lack of recognition THE BENDS received. Both albums are excellent, but THE BENDS is more melodic and showcases the beauty in Thom Yorke's vocals better than Radiohead's two other major releases. Nothing here is as plodding as "Creep" from PABLO HONEY and there's as much depth overall musically and lyrically as on OK COMPUTER's best moments. Perhaps the best song Radiohead has recorded yet is "High And Dry," which has to be one of the most underappreciated rock ballads of the 90's. Nearly every song on THE BENDS is notable, but my other favorites are the odd "The Bends," the hard rocking "Bones," the sad love song "Black Star," and the touching "Street Spirit (Fade Out)," which has both a beautiful and dark tone similar to "High And Dry." Some may find the concept and experimental nature of OK COMPUTER more appealing, but I prefer simply the good songs found here.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2003
In the days before the weird electronic layering and strange prog rock beats, Radiohead was a top notch Brit-pop band and The Bends was in many ways a breakthrough album for Radiohead. They had been passed off as one-hit wonders with their self-depracating international sensation "Creep" and many had expected more of the same angry and discontent lyrics. The Bends, however, was the start of the Radiohead custom of doing the opposite of what is expected of them and making their fans fall in love with their material anyways. The Bends hits all the right notes, from emotional and meloncholy with "Fake Plastic Trees" and "Bulletproof... I wish I was" to angry discontented rock with "Just and My Iron Lung" to detatched bliss with the closer "Street Spirit". The mesh of Radiohead's unique guitar sound make for an unforgettable and incredible listening experiece and one of the best albums of the 90's. I'd reccomend this to any alternative rock listner any day.
Planet Telex - a fantastic opener with U2 inspired guitars. It's probably one of Radiohead's more underrated song, I personally love it and never get bored of it.8/10
The Bends - of the detatched feel of Planet Telex comes the fast paced, rocking Bends which holds the same name as the album. The lyrics are superb. 9/10
High and Dry - My favorite song on the album becuase it was the song that got me into Radiohead. It has a tune that just can't go wrong, catchy and simplistic yet so fun to listen to repeatedly. 10/10
Fake Plastic Trees - One of the most emotional songs on the album. It starts out slow and mellow and builds to a stunning climax. Thom Yorke's voice compliments this track perfectly. 10/10
Bones - not the best track on the album, a bit reminicent of U2. Probably one of the more skippable track, but still a good track nonetheless. 7/10
(Nice Dream) - pretentious use of parenthesis aside, Nice Dream is much like Fake Plastic Trees in that it starts out nice and mellow and ends with a loud and strained climax. The tortured guitar at the end of this song makes it a great addition to the album. 8/10
Just - simply a wonderful song. Grunge-esque in its sound, but having enough guitar variation to be more than just a grunge song, it's superb lyrics and almost perfect mesh of Jonny Greenwood's and Ed O'Brien's guitars make it a masterpiece. 10/10
My Iron Lung - a strange sounding song at first, but on par wit Just by it's unique sound and angry lyrics. Thom wrote this song in response to the one hit wonder critisism Radiohead got earlier in its career. 9/10
Bullet Proof... I wish I was - after the angry and frustrated Just and My Iron lung, Bullet Proof softens the tone of the album a bit with a slow and emotional song. The lyrics are no doubt some of the saddest and make for haunting experience. 8/10
Black Star - One of Thom Yorke's favorite songs, it's also one of my favorites on the album. 10/10
Sulk - Perhaps the weakest song on the album, but still an above average song. 6.5/10
Street Spirit - one of the best closers out of any Album I've listen to. It's detatched and haunting sound is a great way to end such a diverse album. 9/10
Overall, one of my favorite albums. Get it immediately.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2001
I was a skeptic of Radiohead's staying power in the early days. I didn't particularly like Creep, and heard only lukewarm assessments of the rest of Pablo honey. Then the Bends came out and I walked right past it in the record store without giving it a second thought. But as the last 6 years and 3 more albums have screamed in my face, I was STUPID to dismiss Radiohead so quickly. Luckily, I read several glowing reviews and got the heads-up from my brother that this was just a phenomenal CD. So I bought it a couple months after it came out. Six years later, my first copy of it was lost at the high school radio station, and my second copy of it was played so much that I had to replace it three years ago. such is the staying power of Radiohead.
Radiohead have moved on to different sonic and lyrical horizons since the Bends, but the Bends has just as much musical depth and vision as anything they've put out since. People call it their "straight-foward rock album", and to some extent, that's fair, but not entirely. The Bends just HAPPENS to use GUITARS to express Radiohead's musical vision, rather than using elemtents of electronica, as OK computer started to do, and Kid A relied heavily on. But the depth of sound and other-worldly aura that everyone recognizes in OK, Kid A, and Amnesiac, is present in the Bends too. They twist around their guitars and use loud-soft dynamics to full effect, starting with the opening moments of the album, Planet Telex. They use reverb and a lot of tinkering with distortion and things to create that pulsating guitar beat, and these elements are present in other parts of the album too, such as parts of the Bends, My Iron Lung, and a little bit on black star. The typical sentiment is that Radiohead didn't start experimenting until after the bends, but the sprouts of their vision are quite present here as well. They just happen to be using guitars and, certainly, somewhat more straightforward song structures.
Wow, that was a mouthful. Long story short. Alternative rock lovers (which I was back in 1995) should just adore this album. Recent Radiohead converts who enjoy the electronica aspects or who enjoy somewhat challenging sounds (which I have become lately) should...ALSO adore this album. The songs are too strong, and despite the fact that there is no electronica to speak of, Radiohead still manage to create a unique and powerful sound that is different but somehow akin to their recent outings. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that this album is the ONE Radiohead album that SHOULD appeal to the widest audience. the rock and roll is there, but so is the progressive feel that makes Radiohead unique. 6 years later, it's almost time for my 4th copy of the bends. I still can't get enough.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2009
As a die hard Radiohead fan, it pains me to see a collector's edition not go the full mile. Now the album itself is a genuine classic and deserves it's place among the great classics of our time. That said, where is the remastered edition (not remixed) that would have been worth it's weight in gold? I mean has anyone heard the re-release of Pearl Jam's "Ten"?! It's incredible! It would have been a true reason to release this as opposed to EMI cashing in on their white knight that has left them behind.
Also, the b-sides... now believe me, they are amazing (outside of maybe a couple of bad seeds). But they are also on itunes for 99 cents each! What's crazy is that the OK Computer set is more half a**ed than this one with lame postcards and a third disc of 3 or 4 music videos!
In the end, I love the band. I feel everything they put out is solid, but this is a lazy attempt at a quick buck EMI... and $35 at that! Twenty bucks maybe but really?!! I guess now that this is out we won't see what really could have been. I give this 3 Stars because it is Radiohead after all and I know they didn't approve this package. They are better to their fans than EMI ever cares to be.