Tuesday, November 25, 2008

80. Radiohead - The Bends

My favorite Radiohead album. It has more depth, soul and character than anything they've ever done (and that's saying a lot). Musically and lyrically it rises above almost every other album in my music collection.

This is a perfect album. There's no skipping. There's no playing selected tracks. It's on from start to finish. Its beauty encompasses you, its sadness tears at you, its wistfulness makes your heart ache.

It's not just the exquisite music or brilliant lyrics. It's the way Thom Yorke's voice plays on your emotions that makes you go through such a range of feelings with him that when the album is done playing you feel like you've been born, died, been born again and have gone through the 12 stages of death and the myriad stages of PMS in just under an hour.

The Bends is quiet and understated and that is what makes it so powerful. It's almost like Yorke's voice is a meek companion to the music; with layers of self consciousness amplified by his tone shifts, the meekness becomes a strength and you are swept away with the songs, wallowing with them. For that is what The Bends is. It's a long wallow, a journey into self pity slathered with bitterness and yearning.

If Bulletproof doesn't make you weep with empathy, then Fake Plastic Trees will do the trick.

But I can't help the feeling
I could blow through the ceiling
If I just turn and run


And it wears me out, it wears me out
It wears me out, it wears me out


And if I could be who you wanted
If I could be who you wanted
All the time, all the time


It's the abject sadness and wistfulness in Thom Yorke's voice, it's the way the music sweeps up and then drops suddenly, the soul crushing way Yorke meekly pulls the last "all the time" out of his throat.

And yea, it's the words. It's like a sharp stick poking at my brain and my heart. But I will never stop listening to it, because I will never stop listening to this album.

Favorite song: Fake Plastic Trees
Green Plastic

8 comments:

Carin said...

Ok, my (original) longish comment disappeared ... but basically I rambled around trying to come up with my favorite song from this album, and switched my mind four times.

It's either:
Black Star
Just
or
Sulk
Depending on my mood.

And, ironically, I listened to this album on my way to work today.

steelopus said...

I fluctuate between this and OK Computer on what seems to be a weekly basis when I try to decide which is my favorite Radiohead album.

The thing that always pulls me back to The Bends is the incredible amount of space in the mix. Obviously, Thom's voice and the lyrics are simply unmatched in "modern rock," but the arrangements and performances on this record are truly splendid.
There are 5 guys in the band and I swear to you that there are very few times that you ever hear more than 5 distinct instruments performing at the same time (excluding vocals). Sparsity of that nature is basically unheard of in recent times. Music is so often over-produced, but there is not a single note that is out of place on this album nor is there anything missing. It is, as you say, perfect.

Even on a song such as My Iron Lung, which seems so huge and full of sound, you can distinctly pick out each instrument in the mix, at any volume. Ed is on the left, Johnny is on the right, Thom, Colin, and Phil are right in the center, and at no point do you ever lose track of who's playing what.

It's an incredible accomplishment.

steelopus said...

...and yeah, that voice... it could make an angel weep.

Jim said...

Radiohead is a rock snob's band. I've never listened to a whole Radiohead album, or gotten through a Radiohead concert.

But I'm just a rocksnob wannabe.

Rock Snobe explained

michele said...

Rock Snobs don't listen to The Dwarves.

Carin said...

Jim, I only started listening to Radiohead a few years ago because they were such a darling of the critics. I don't let any CRITIC tell me what is good.

Then, someone sent me one of their songs ("Little Man going To sleep") a few years back, and I've been totally hooked ever since.

justacoolcat said...

One of the greatest rock and roll albums of all time.

bran said...

"This is a perfect album. There's no skipping. There's no playing selected tracks. It's on from start to finish. Its beauty encompasses you, it's sadness tears at you, it's wistfulness makes your heart ache."

- yeah, that's it. completely.