The Bends – Radiohead (1995)

the-bends

****1/2

Learning from fellow ’90s stalwarts like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, Radiohead’s second album greatly improved upon the foundation they set with Pablo Honey’s “Creep,” and created an angsty alternate take on Grunge that may remain over two decades later as their peak. The artsy beginning featuring “Planet Telax” and the title track quickly gives way to what is simply some of the greatest Rock music to emerge from the entire decade with the driving force of “Bones,” the gorgeous “(Nice Dream)” and the “Like a Rolling Stone”-esque “Just” which finds singer Thom Yorke pointing fingers with a yelping bite. Yorke himself was never better than on The Bends, coming across as a true blue fontman almost in the same form as Stone Temple Pilots’ Scott Wieland before completely reinventing himself with OK Computer and particularly Kid A. But Johnny Greenwood’s riff-heavy guitar work is the real star of the show and becomes the centerpiece of the album for listeners unwilling to look up a lyric sheet for Yorke’s otherworldly vocal delivery. The album lacks any true low point and each of its 12 songs is excellent, but none of them reach the zenith that “Fake Plastic Trees”  achieves. As an anthem for the lovesick, the lonely, and the depressed, “Fake Plastic Trees” has never really been surpassed. Nothing may ever top it.

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