Though the album has been out since 1995, and I must have listened to it for the first time in the early 2000s, I’m only just now discovering what “the bends” actually is: decompression sickness. As in, if you do any type of caisson (engineering) work, or more often, being in an unpressurised aircraft. Or what I’m sure everyone has been through at least once in their life – spacewalking!
Radiohead’s second album The Bends won’t make you nauseous, but it does mark the point at which the band shifted to a decidedly more electronically-influenced rock sound. My complaints about the random number generator that still has me upset (Radiohead two days in a row? C’mon. I haven’t talked about any of the following: 7 [!] Showbread album, 6 OutKast, or 5 Converge. So frustrating), I suppose it’s cool that I’m able to follow up on yesterday’s OK Computer musings with its predecessor.
While The Bends does still spend a considerable amount of time steeped in classic 90s and Brit rock, it’s obvious the direction of the band. Opener “Planet Telex” is a dead giveaway to this shift, as is some of “Just” and “My Iron Lung” – which are, for me, the two best songs on the album.
During the 90s, Radiohead were on a 2-year cycle for each album. It’s wild to me the leaps and bounds they made from one record to the next. Pablo Honey was released in 1993, today’s album in 1995, and OK Computer in 1997. In 4 short years, the band went from possibly being stuck with the dubious distinction of “that ‘Creep’ band” and basement one-hit wonderdom to perennial revolutionaries.
But it took today and yesterday’s records to get them there. The tandem of The Bends and OK Computer is, in my opinion, the most compelling in their discography.
From the album that proclaimed everything was about to change, this is Radiohead’s “High And Dry” –
Standout tracks: “Just” and “My Iron Lung” and, of course, “The Bends”
Weakest track: “Bullet Proof … I Wish I Was”
RIYL: ’90s electro-Brit Rock.