Radiohead’s sophomore album turned 20 years old on March 13. These are 12 classic tracks that came after the commercial and critical success of their debut album, “Pablo Honey.” Radiohead’s biggest single “Creep” was on that album so it was pretty hard to top that. However, “The Bends” saw Thom Yorke and company experimenting and growing more artistically. Here is a further investigation into this album and what it makes it remain popular so many years later.
The opening track is a mesmerizing and rather loud. It’s filled with guitar and keyboards but it still sets the album off on a high note. Besides the sound itself, Thom Yorke’s voice has such depth and life to it that you can’t help but be in awe of. The lyrics are, “You can force it but it will not come.” It’s the normal lyrics from this singer: vague but also powerful.
High & Dry is a fun and simple track. It also doesn’t really sound like something you’d expect to hear from this particular band. Meaning, Radiohead likes playing with synthesizers and basically just making what they want to make. This song sounds more pop focuses versus the usual edgy band who doesn’t care about being mainstream or not. Don’t get me wrong, the song is still a beautiful one that’s extremely likely to get stuck in your head. “Don’t leave me high, don’t leave me dry,” begs Yorke. Straight to the point but it’s what works.
“One day he’ll get to you, and teach you how to be a holy cow.” Well, I don’t know what a holy cow is but Just is one of my favorites one of the album. This one has a Nirvana feel to it due to the guitar riffs from Jonny Greenwood. It also feels more grunge than most Radiohead songs due to the screaming from Yorke. He repeatedly screams, “You do it to yourself.”
This is definitely my favorite song on the album and one of my favorite Radiohead songs in general. The lyrics have this sad quality to them but the general build up of the song is pretty awesome. The song is all about a “plastic” person, someone pretending to be someone they aren’t and someone consumed by material things. By the time Thom sings out, “She looks like the real thing,” you can feel the rock vibe to the song. It has a lot of different elements to it that make it blend and work so well as a whole.
This song wraps up the album on a depressing note. But to be fair, the entire album is pretty depressing but what do you really expect from Radiohead? It’s a dark song and the lyrics follow a theme similar to the prior tracks: conformity, materialism, and hopelessness. “Rows of houses, all bearing down on me,” are the beginning lyrics to the track.
As a whole, this is an incredible sophomore album that is still just as amazing 20 years later. The band would continue to grow and become more experimental with all of their following albums. Including the successful “OK Computer,” that really was the band at their most successful and artistic. It may not be the best Radiohead album, but it’s still an important album on the band’s discography.
Review written by Rachel Geiger.