|Studio album by Radiohead|
|Released||13 March 1995|
|Recorded||1992 ("High and Dry")
August – November 1994 at Abbey Road Studios, RAK Studios, London and The Manor, Oxfordshire
|Genre||Alternative rock, Britpop|
|Singles from The Bends|
The Bends is the second studio album by the English alternative rock band Radiohead, released on 13 March 1995 by Parlophone. The Bends was produced by John Leckie at EMI's studios in London, and engineered by Nigel Godrich, who would go on to produce all future albums by the band. Featuring five charting singles, the album also marked the beginning of a shift in aesthetics and themes for the band, with greater use of keyboards, and more abrasive guitar tracks balancing subtler ones. The introspective grunge-influenced style of Pablo Honey evolved into more multi-layered rock with cryptic lyrics and larger ideas, as the band and singer Thom Yorke reacted against the rigors of near-constant world tours.
My Iron Lung was released as an EP and later, "High and Dry" was released as an A-side with "Planet Telex" as the B-side. "Fake Plastic Trees" was released as the second single, with "Just" as the album's third. "Street Spirit (Fade Out)", the final single and last song on the album, became their first top five UK hit.
The album was subject to greater critical acclaim than their debut Pablo Honey (1993), receiving an enthusiastic critical reaction, and it reached number four in the UK Albums Chart. However, it failed to build on the commercial success of their single "Creep" outside the United Kingdom, and it peaked on the American charts at number 88. Although it lacked the instant success of later Radiohead albums, The Bends achieved triple platinum sales certifications in the UK and Canada and platinum sales in the United States and the European Union. In the years since its release, the album has frequently appeared in listener polls and critics' lists of the best albums of all time.
By the time Radiohead began their first US tour in early 1993, their single "Creep" (1992) was in heavy rotation on MTV and had achieved top ten chart positions in the UK and the US when reissued in 1993. The grunge sound of their debut album Pablo Honey (1993) had led to the band being described as "Nirvana-lite", and neither the album nor the singles "Stop Whispering" and "Anyone Can Play Guitar" matched the chart success of "Creep".
Radiohead nearly broke up due to the pressure of sudden success as the tour extended into its second year. The band described the tour as a miserable experience, as towards its end they were "still playing the same songs that [they had] recorded two years previously... almost like being held in a time warp." Tensions were high, as the band felt smothered by both the success of "Creep" and the mounting expectations for a superior follow-up. The band sought a change of scenery, touring Australasia and the Far East in an attempt to reduce the pressure. However, confronted again by their popularity, Yorke became disenchanted at being "right at the sharp end of the sexy, sassy, MTV eye-candy lifestyle" he felt he was helping to sell to the world. The 1994 EP My Iron Lung, featuring the single of the same title, was Radiohead's reaction, marking a transition towards the greater depth they aimed for on their second album. The album is dedicated to the late comedian Bill Hicks.
Recording and production
Radiohead began working on arrangements for The Bends in early 1994. Sessions were due to begin at London's RAK Studio in January with Radiohead's producer of choice, John Leckie; however, fellow Oxford band Ride asked Leckie to perform some last-minute work on their forthcoming album Carnival of Light. Radiohead postponed the start of the album's recording to 24 February to accommodate, and used the extra time to practice their songs; Yorke said: "We had all of these songs and we really liked them, but we knew them almost too well . . . so we had to sort of learn to like them again before we could record them, which is odd."
The first two months of work on the album were difficult. While Radiohead were pleased with their work with Leckie and engineer Nigel Godrich, they felt pressured to follow up the success of Pablo Honey. The band's record label, EMI, set an October 1994 release date for the record, and suggested Radiohead should record the album's lead single first. No one could agree on what the lead single should be, so the band worked on four candidates: "Sulk", "The Bends", "Just", and "Nice Dream". The approach proved counter-productive; Leckie recalled, "Everyone was pulling their hair out saying, 'It's not good enough!' [. . .] We were trying too hard." The recording process slowed further as guitarist Jonny Greenwood experimented with several rented guitars and amplifiers in order to discover "a really special sound" for his instrument, despite Leckie's belief that Greenwood already had one. According to Leckie, whenever a record company representative or the group's management came to check on the album's progress, all the band would have to show them was "a drum sound or something".
In an attempt to defuse tensions between Yorke and the rest of the band over whether they should take a break that April, Leckie suggested to Yorke that he record some songs by himself on guitar. The group had a tour lined up for May until mid-June, which meant that the album would not be completed by October as planned. By the end of the sessions at RAK, Radiohead had recorded several songs that would appear on the album, as well as most of the tracks that would appear on My Iron Lung EP. They resumed recording on 16 June at Richard Branson's Oxfordshire studio complex, the Manor. Unlike the sessions at RAK, Radiohead recorded material quickly; Leckie felt the break for the tour gave the group "confidence" in the songs again. The band completed recording at Abbey Road Studios in London, where Leckie also mixed some of the songs.
Due to the poor commercial performance of the My Iron Lung EP, EMI decided Pablo Honey producers Sean Slade and Paul Q. Kolderie would remix the album tracks in the United States. Leckie did not realise what was happening until EMI asked him for copies of the multi-track tapes; Leckie said "EMI had been going on about trying to get an American sound for the record from the minute I got involved". Kolderie insisted he and Slade had not lobbied to remix the album, but EMI made the decision and the band supported it after hearing Pablo Honey play over a sound system during an in-store appearance. Leckie did not always like what Slade and Kolderie produced, but later said it was a sound decision to have others approach the music with a fresh approach.
"Just", Radiohead's fourth single from The Bends, reached number 19 in the UK charts in 1995.
"Fake Plastic Trees" was partly inspired by the commercial development of Canary Wharf"
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According to the band, The Bends marked the start of a gradual turn in Yorke's songwriting from personal angst to the more cryptic lyrics and social and global themes that would come to dominate the band's later work. Most of the album was seen to continue the lyrical concerns of Pablo Honey, although in more mature fashion. The songs "My Iron Lung" and "Bullet Proof..I Wish I Was" have been compared to the band's later work, namely "Paranoid Android" and "Subterranean Homesick Alien", respectively. "Fake Plastic Trees" was partly inspired by the commercial development of Canary Wharf, while "Sulk" was written as a response to the Hungerford massacre. According to Yorke, "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" was inspired by the book The Famished Road by Ben Okri as well as the music of R.E.M.
The lyrics to the songs on The Bends, particularly those of "My Iron Lung", were cited in the British music press as an example of Yorke's alleged depression. Melody Maker ran an article during The Bends period which suggested Yorke would be the next "rock 'n roll martyr" or suicide.
The Bends was the first of the band's full-length records with artwork by Stanley Donwood, in collaboration with Yorke, who went under the name "The White Chocolate Farm" (later shortened to Tchock). In an interview with NME, Donwood recalled taking on the album cover design in a time of poverty in his life. On creating the cover, Donwood remembered: "I got a CPR mannequin and filmed it on an old-fashioned video camera with a video cassette in it."
Reception and legacy
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
The Bends met with greater critical acclaim than Pablo Honey, appearing on many end-of-year lists in 1995. Within the UK, it assured Radiohead's role as a standard-bearer of "indie" Brit-rock bands. The album was released during the height of the '90s Britpop movement; however, in the band's home country, Radiohead's music was rarely grouped with Blur, Pulp and other so-called "Britpop" acts, instead receiving some acclaim for diverging from the fashionable aspects of the scene.
In the US, The Bends got off to a slow start. While its American lead single "Fake Plastic Trees" fared relatively well (peaking at number 11 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks and number 65 on the Hot 100 Airplay chart), the album received a rather lukewarm commercial reception initially, entering the Billboard 200 at the very bottom position on the week of May 13, 1995, before peaking at number 147 on the week of June 24 and dropping off the chart after a mere nine weeks. However, stateside reputation for the album steadily began to build as the band were performing as opening acts for both R.E.M. and Alanis Morissette and the much-talked about videos for singles "Just" and "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" drew attention, before the release of "High and Dry" (the album's original UK lead single) in early 1996 with a new, Quentin Tarantino-styled music video reignited interest in the album. "High and Dry" reached number 78 on the Billboard Hot 100, one of their highest chartings there., while The Bends re-entered the Billboard album chart on the week of February 17, 1996 and eventually broke the Top 100 and reached its peak position at number 88 on April 20, almost exactly a year after the album's release and was certified Gold by the RIAA for sales of half a million copies on April 4. The Bends still remains Radiohead's lowest appearance on the US chart. In the UK, The Bends reached number four and stayed on the chart for 160 weeks. It was certified Triple Platinum in the UK and Platinum in the US. In mid-1995 Radiohead toured as an opening act for R.E.M., playing songs from The Bends and extending their popularity with a mass audience. Many bands, including Garbage, R.E.M., and k.d. lang began to cite Radiohead as their favourite band.
The Bends had an influence on the subsequent generation of British pop bands. In 2006, The Observer listed it as one of "the 50 albums that changed music", saying, "Radiohead's Thom Yorke popularised the angst-laden falsetto, a thoughtful opposite to the chest-beating lad-rock personified by Oasis's Liam Gallagher. Singing in a higher octave-range and falsetto voice to a backdrop of churning guitars became a much-copied idea, however, one that eventually coalesced into an entire decade of sound. Without this, Coldplay would not exist, nor Keane, nor James Blunt."
The Bends took second place behind Radiohead's OK Computer in both 1998 and 2006 reader polls of Q magazine for the best album of all time. In 2003, the album was ranked number 110 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The Bends was the highest entry of three Radiohead albums to make the list (OK Computer and Kid A being the others), until the release of the updated version of the list in 2012, in which Kid A was moved to number 67. In 2000, Virgin's "Top 1000 Albums of All Time" ranked The Bends at number two, second only to Revolver by The Beatles. In 2006, British Hit Singles & Albums and NME organised a poll of which, 40,000 people worldwide voted for the 100 best albums ever and The Bends was placed at number 10 on the list. Paste ranked the album 11th on its list of the greatest albums of the 1990s.
All songs written and composed by Radiohead (Colin Greenwood, Ed O'Brien, Jonny Greenwood, Philip Selway, Thom Yorke).
|3.||"High and Dry"||4:17|
|4.||"Fake Plastic Trees"||4:50|
|8.||"My Iron Lung"||4:36|
|9.||"Bullet Proof..I Wish I Was"||3:28|
|12.||"Street Spirit (Fade Out)"||4:12|
|"Collector's Edition"/"Special Collector's Edition" Disc 2|
|2.||"Punchdrunk Lovesick Singalong"||4:38|
|3.||"Lozenge of Love"||2:14|
|6.||"You Never Wash Up After Yourself"||1:42|
|10.||"How Can You Be Sure?"||4:20|
|11.||"Fake Plastic Trees" (Acoustic version)||4:41|
|12.||"Bullet Proof..I Wish I Was" (Acoustic version)||3:34|
|13.||"Street Spirit (Fade Out)" (Acoustic version)||4:26|
|14.||"Talk Show Host"||4:39|
|18.||"Just" (BBC Radio 1 session, 14/09/94)||3:44|
|19.||"Maquiladora" (BBC Radio 1 session, 14/09/94)||3:28|
|20.||"Street Spirit (Fade Out)" (BBC Radio 1 session, 14/09/94)||4:19|
|21.||"Bones" (BBC Radio 1 session, 14/09/94)||3:01|
|"Special Collector's Edition" DVD|
|1.||"High and Dry" (UK Version)|
|2.||"High and Dry" (U.S. Version)|
|3.||"Fake Plastic Trees"|
|5.||"Street Spirit (Fade Out)"|
|6.||"Bones" (Live at the Astoria, London, England, 27/05/94)|
|7.||"Black Star" (Live at the Astoria, London, England, 27/05/94)|
|8.||"The Bends" (Live at the Astoria, London, England, 27/05/94)|
|9.||"My Iron Lung" (Live at the Astoria, London, England, 27/05/94)|
|10.||"Maquiladora" (Live at the Astoria, London, England, 27/05/94)|
|11.||"Fake Plastic Trees" (Live at the Astoria, London, England, 27/05/94)|
|12.||"Just" (Live at the Astoria, London, England, 27/05/94)|
|13.||"Street Spirit (Fade Out)" (Live at the Astoria, London, England, 27/05/94)|
|14.||"My Iron Lung" (2 Meter Session, Holland, the Netherlands, 27/02/95)|
|15.||"High and Dry" (2 Meter Session, Holland, the Netherlands, 27/02/95)|
|16.||"Fake Plastic Trees" (2 Meter Session, Holland, the Netherlands, 27/02/95)|
|17.||"Street Spirit (Fade Out)" (2 Meter Session, Holland, the Netherlands, 27/02/95)|
|18.||"The Bends" (Later... with Jools Holland, 27/05/95)|
|19.||"High and Dry" (Later... with Jools Holland, 27/05/95)|
|20.||"High and Dry" (Top of the Pops, 09/03/95)|
|21.||"Fake Plastic Trees" (Top of the Pops, 01/06/95)|
|22.||"Street Spirit (Fade Out)" (Top of the Pops, 01/02/96)|
|Australian Albums (ARIA)||23|
|Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)||37|
|German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)||73|
|New Zealand Albums (Recorded Music NZ)||8|
|Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)||26|
|UK Albums (OCC)||4|
|Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)||8|
|Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia)||26|
|Canadian RPM Albums Chart||21|
|Dutch Albums (MegaCharts)||20|
|US Billboard 200||88|
|Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)||32|
- Roberts, David, ed. (June 2006) , British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.), London: HiT Entertainment, p. 447, ISBN 1-904994-10-5
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