Radiohead: A look back at “The Bends”


Photo credit: Jason Hickey

Iconic and obscure: Artist Stanley Donwood is known for his contribution to Radiohead album covers

Tyler Wong, THO Editor

Over twenty-six years ago, English alternative rock band Radiohead released their second studio album “The Bends.” A successor to their first studio album and a curveball with their constantly evolving experimental music, “The Bends” arguably propelled Radiohead’s unforgettable legacy. 

Although the songs retain some elements from its precursor, “The Bends” adds more cryptic lyrics and keyboard as well as harsher guitar sections. Even in the tamer songs such as “Fake Plastic Trees,” “High and Dry” and “(Nice Dream),” the group still includes abrasive guitar tracks and powerful drum sections. 

The most noticeable aspect of Radiohead’s playing in this particular album is their control of energy. The band’s strange combination of strong rock riffs and soft, quiet singing as well as the sforzando crescendos and decrescendos leave the listener in a restless emotional rollercoaster. This can be found in songs such as “Just,” “My Iron Lung” and “Sulk,” where Radiohead’s rock roots shine bright. But even through their powerful rock riffs, there are still sections of soft vocals. 

Negative aspects about the album are difficult to find. None of the songs on the tracklist act as filler and although the songs are similar, Radiohead is able to construe them to be individual works of art. For many Radiohead fans, these classic songs never grow old. In 48 minutes and 37 seconds, Radiohead’s “The Bends” presents pure energy and enjoyment. Its insular and experimental quality is executed perfectly, resulting in an album created ahead of its time. 

This album gives us a peek at the band’s future as they continue to push out more obscure, yet oddly beautiful pieces. With their constantly evolving musical style, Radiohead manages to not only push the boundaries of experimental and alternative rock but also do it successfully, giving listeners an entirely new experience every time. For those who are not familiar with “The Bends” or Radiohead as a whole, prepare to be left mouth agape like the CPR mannequin on the album cover.