Friday, March 6, 2020

Certain Songs #1768: Radiohead – “The Bends” | Medialoper

Album: The Bends
Year: 1995

While Pablo Honey was the first Radiohead album, The Bends was the first Radiohead album. It was the first album where they worked with Nigel Godrich — just as engineer, but still — the first album with art by Stanley Donwood, the first album with weird song structures.

The first album where their ambition to do something new with rock started showing.

Which is also somewhat ironic, as it’s probably their nosiest album, guitarists Jonny Greenwood and Ed O’Brien adding rude sounds to even their most acoustic-based songs, like the singles “High and Dry” and “Fake Plastic Trees,” both of which I heard on radio, but neither of which enjoyed as much as the title track, which started off with massive guitar chords and couple of Thom Yorke wails before dropping into a quiet opening verse.

But after that, “The Bends” continually fucks with its arrangement, not so much straying from the traditional verse-chorus-verse, but rather with the instrumentation on the verses, always leading back to the soaring chorus.

My baby’s got the bends, oh no
We don’t have any real friends
No, no, no

There’s also a cool post-chorus sequence that comes up a couple of times where it’s just Yorke over Phil Selway playing almost a hip-hop beat while the guitars glisten and clang in the background.

Just lying in the bar with my drip feed on
Talking to my girlfriend, waiting for something to happen
I wish it was the ’60s, I wish I could be happy
I wish, I wish, I wish that something would happen

The second time around this leads directly to some crazy-ass guitar fireworks, but then again, pretty much all of “The Bends” features some crazy-ass guitar fireworks, which is why I enjoy it so much.

“The Bends”

“The Bends” live at Reading, 1994

“The Bends” live in Jools Holland, 1995

“The Bends” live at Glastonbury, 1997

“The Bends” live in San Francisco, 1998

“The Bends” live in Chile, 2018

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