The Bends

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This article is about the album by Radiohead. For the disease, see decompression sickness.
The Bends
Radiohead.bends.albumart.jpg
Studio album by Radiohead
Released 13 March 1995
Recorded 1993 ("High and Dry")
August – November 1994
Studio
Genre
Length 48:37
Label
Producer John Leckie
Radiohead chronology
My Iron Lung
(1994)
The Bends
(1995)
OK Computer
(1997)
Singles from The Bends
  1. "My Iron Lung"
    Released: 24 October 1994
  2. "High and Dry / Planet Telex"
    Released: 27 February 1995
  3. "Fake Plastic Trees"
    Released: 15 May 1995
  4. "Just"
    Released: 21 August 1995
  5. "Street Spirit (Fade Out)"
    Released: 22 January 1996

The Bends is the second studio album by the English alternative rock band Radiohead, released on 13 March 1995 by Parlophone Records internationally and by Capitol Records in the United States. The album was produced by John Leckie at EMI Studios in London, England and engineered by Nigel Godrich, who would go on to co-produce all future albums by the band. The Bends marked the beginning of a shift in aesthetics and themes for the band, with greater use of keyboards, and more abrasive guitar tracks while balancing with subtler ones. The introspective grunge-influenced style of their debut studio album Pablo Honey (1993) evolved into more multi-layered rock with cryptic lyrics and larger ideas, as the band and singer Thom Yorke reacted against the rigors of their near-constant world tours.

The Bends received greater critical acclaim than Pablo Honey, receiving an enthusiastic critical reaction, and it reached #4 on the UK Albums Chart.[3] However, it failed to build on the commercial success of the single "Creep" outside of the United Kingdom, and it peaked on the United States charts at #88.[4] Although it lacked the instant success of Radiohead's subsequent albums, The Bends achieved triple platinum sales certifications in the UK and in Canada, as well as platinum sales certifications in the United States (by the Recording Industry Association of America) and in Europe. The album spawned five charting singles; My Iron Lung was first released as an EP in 1994 before the album was released, and later "High and Dry" was released with the album's opener "Planet Telex" as its B-side. "Fake Plastic Trees" was released as the second single from The Bends, followed by "Just". "Street Spirit (Fade Out)", the final single and last song on the album, became their first top 5 hit in the United Kingdom. In the years since its release, the album has frequently appeared in listener polls and critics' lists of the best albums of all time.

Background[edit]

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.[5] The grunge sound of their debut album Pablo Honey (1993) had led to the band being described as "Nirvana-lite",[6] 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.[7] 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."[8] Tensions were high, as the band felt smothered by both the success of "Creep" and the mounting expectations for a superior follow-up.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11] The album is dedicated to the late comedian Bill Hicks.[12]

Recording and production[edit]

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;[13] however, fellow Oxford band Ride asked Leckie to perform some last-minute work on their forthcoming album Carnival of Light.[14] 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."[15]

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.[15] 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".[16]

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.[17] 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.[18]

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.[19] 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.[20]

Music[edit]

"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"

Problems playing these files? See media help.

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.[21] "Fake Plastic Trees" was partly inspired by the commercial development of Canary Wharf,[22] while "Sulk" was written as a response to the Hungerford massacre.[23] 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.[24]

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.[25]

Packaging[edit]

The Bends was the first Radiohead album 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. He created the cover by filming a CPR mannequin with a cassette camera.[26]

Reception and legacy[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[27]
Blender 5/5 stars[28]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 5/5 stars[29]
Entertainment Weekly B+[30]
The Guardian 4/4 stars[31]
Los Angeles Times 3/4 stars[32]
NME 9/10[2]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[33]
Spin 5/10[34]
The Village Voice C[35]

The Bends received critical acclaim in the United Kingdom.[36] According to The Guardian's Caroline Sullivan, it elevated Radiohead from "indie one-hit-wonderville into the premier league of respected British rock bands".[37] In her original review, she said the band "transformed themselves from nondescript guitar-beaters to potential arena-fillers" similar to U2; concluding, "the grandeur may eventually pall, as it has with U2, but it's been years since big bumptious rock sounded this emotional."[31] NME magazine's Mark Sutherland hailed it as a "classic" and "the consummate, all-encompassing, continent-straddling '90s rock record".[2]

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 earning acclaim for diverging from the fashionable aspects of the scene.[38]

In Spin magazine, American critic Chuck Eddy was less impressed, deeming much of the album "nodded-out nonsense mumble, not enough concrete emotion",[34] while Kevin McKeough from the Chicago Tribune panned Yorke's lyrics as "self-absorbed" and the music as overblown and pretentious.[39] Village Voice critic Robert Christgau felt the guitar parts and expressions of angst come skillfully and naturally to the band but nonetheless lack depth: "The words achieve precisely the same pitch of aesthetic necessity as the music, which is none at all."[35] A positive review came from the Los Angeles Times' Sandy Morris, who described Yorke as "almost as enticingly enigmatic as Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan, though of a more delicate constitution."[32]

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 an initially lukewarm commercial reception, entering at the very bottom of the Billboard 200 in the week of 13 May 1995,[40] before peaking at number 147 in the week of 24 June[41] and dropping off the chart after a mere nine weeks. However, the album's reputation steadily built Stateside as the band opened for R.E.M. and Alanis Morissette. 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,[4] while The Bends re-entered the Billboard chart in the week of 17 February 1996.[42] It eventually broke the Top 100 and peaked at number 88 on 20 April,[43] almost exactly a year after its release, and was certified Gold by the RIAA for sales of half a million copies on April 4.[44] The Bends remains Radiohead's lowest-charting album in the US but eventually turned platinum.[45]

In the UK, The Bends reached number four, stayed on the chart for 160 weeks[46] and was certified Triple Platinum in the UK[47] Acts including Garbage, R.E.M. and k.d. lang began to cite Radiohead as a favourite band.[38]

"We didn't really realise that loads of people like The Bends," said Colin Greenwood. "Tucked away in Oxford, you occasionally see someone in a 'Creep' T-shirt, and that's it. But then we went all round the world and found that loads of people wanted to 'hang' with us because of that album. Which was nice."[48]

The Bends influenced a generation of British pop bands. In 2006, The Observer listed it as one of "the 50 albums that changed music", saying, "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."[49]

The Bends took second place behind OK Computer in both 1998 and 2006 reader polls in Q magazine for the best album of all time.[50][51] 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 of three Radiohead albums to make the list (OK Computer and Kid A being the others), until an updated list in 2012, in which Kid A moved to number 67.[52] In 2000, Virgin's "Top 1000 Albums of All Time" ranked The Bends at number two, second only to Revolver by The Beatles.[53]

In 2006, British Hit Singles & Albums and NME organised a poll in which 40,000 people worldwide voted for the 100 best albums ever. The Bends was placed at number 10.[54] Paste ranked it 11th on a list of the greatest albums of the 1990s.[55]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Radiohead (Colin Greenwood, Ed O'Brien, Jonny Greenwood, Philip Selway, Thom Yorke). 

No. Title Length
1. "Planet Telex"   4:19
2. "The Bends"   4:06
3. "High and Dry"   4:17
4. "Fake Plastic Trees"   4:50
5. "Bones"   3:09
6. "(Nice Dream)"   3:53
7. "Just"   3:54
8. "My Iron Lung"   4:36
9. "Bullet Proof..I Wish I Was"   3:28
10. "Black Star"   4:07
11. "Sulk"   3:42
12. "Street Spirit (Fade Out)"   4:12

Personnel[edit]

Charts and certifications[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kane, Tyler (20 October 2012). "Radiohead's Discography Ranked". Paste. Retrieved 2 September 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c Sutherland, Mark (18 March 1995). "Radiohead – The Bends". NME. London. Archived from the original on 17 August 2000. Retrieved 9 July 2015. 
  3. ^ Roberts, David, ed. (June 2006) [1977], British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.), London: HiT Entertainment, p. 447, ISBN 1-904994-10-5 
  4. ^ a b c The Bends at AllMusic
  5. ^ "Creepshow", Melody Maker, 19 December 1992 
  6. ^ Smith, Andrew (1 October 2000), "Sound and Fury", The Observer, retrieved 17 March 2007 
  7. ^ Richardson, Andy (9 December 1995), "Boom! Shake The Gloom!", NME 
  8. ^ Harding, Nigel (8 May 1995), "Radiohead's Phil Selway", Consumable Online, retrieved 5 October 2008 
  9. ^ Black, Johnny (1 June 2003), "The Greatest Songs Ever! Fake Plastic Trees", Blender, archived from the original on 9 April 2007, retrieved 15 April 2007 
  10. ^ Reynolds, Simon (June 2001), "Walking on Thin Ice", The Wire 
  11. ^ Mallins, Steve (1 April 1995), "Scuba Do", Vox magazine 
  12. ^ Baimbridge, Richard (24 July 1997). "Creep Show". Dallas Observer. Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  13. ^ Randall, p. 124
  14. ^ Randall, p. 125
  15. ^ a b Randall, p. 126
  16. ^ Randall, pp. 127-28
  17. ^ Randall, pp. 129-30
  18. ^ Randall, p. 133
  19. ^ Randall, p. 139
  20. ^ Randall, p. 140
  21. ^ "Radiohead: The Bends Album Review". Sputnikmusic. February 18, 2006. Retrieved January 4, 2014. 
  22. ^ Fake Plastic Trees Lyrics, March 1995 
  23. ^ - Mac Randall (1 September 2004). Exit Music: The Radiohead Story, 119. Google Print. ISBN 1-84449-183-8 (accessed 28 October 2005). Also available in print from Omnibus Press.
  24. ^ Draper, Brian (11 October 2014). "Chipping Away: Brian Draper Talks to Thom Yorke". Third Way. St. Peters, Sumner Road, Harrow: Third Way Trust, Ltd. Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  25. ^ "Headcases", Melody Maker, June 1995 
  26. ^ Jones, Lucy (27 September 2013). "Stanley Donwood On The Stories Behind His Radiohead Album Covers". NME. Retrieved 28 September 2013. 
  27. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "The Bends – Radiohead". AllMusic. Retrieved 8 September 2011. 
  28. ^ Slaughter, James. "Radiohead: The Bends". Blender. Archived from the original on 1 January 2011. Retrieved 26 November 2015. 
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  35. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (3 December 1996). "Consumer Guide: Turkey Shoot". The Village Voice. Retrieved 8 September 2011. 
  36. ^ Radiohead. AllMusic. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  37. ^ Sullivan, Caroline (May 1997). "Aching Heads". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  38. ^ a b Kleinedler, Clare (23 March 2009). "A 1996 Radiohead Interview – The Bends, Britpop And OK Computer". The Quietus. Retrieved 15 March 2012. 
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  43. ^ "Billboard 200". Billboard. 20 April 1996. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  44. ^ "Gold & Platinum - RIAA". Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  45. ^ "RIAA Gold and Platinum Searchable Database". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 15 March 2012.  Note: reader must define search parameter as "Radiohead".
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  68. ^ "British album certifications – Radiohead – The Bends". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter The Bends in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Platinum in the field By Award. Click Search
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Bibliography

External links[edit]