We’re Too Young To Fall Asleep.
Yo, this be Reuben. W-w-w-woah, betcha didn’t expect me writing about music again. Well, I’ve come to the realisation that I only listen to music that I really like, so the problem with me writing about music on here is that I’m in a perpetual state of loving whatever I’m writing about. And, well, this album is no exception to that rule.
You know Radiohead, right? Some people might think their music is pointless miserable claptrap, but screw them because I think they’re a bit flippin’ good. The Bends, their second record, is the only album by them that I have available to listen to, and that ain’t no problem because it’s awesome.
Believe it or not, it’s got a lot of energy to it, with influence from the britpop and grunge scenes being evident and the band’s youthfulness giving a lot of the record a really fun edge. But there is also a brilliant amount of gentleness to make the record, essentially, a really lovely roller-coaster ride. Because, you’re thrown into energetic rockers here and there but you’re given rests when Thom and the bunch drift into melancholic indie ballads. And what makes it so darn lovely is that those ‘energetic rockers’ are never too much in comparison to the gentle tracks, so you’ve got dips and peaks in the overall sound of the album, but nothing feels out of place and it can be a relaxing listen throughout.
So, on the fun end of the spectrum you’ve got fantastic tracks like Just and The Bends. Tracks like these clearly influenced bands like Muse, and are very unique in the fact that they mix Thom Yorke’s nonchalant and recognisable vocals with eclectic guitar riffs and catchy hooks, to make for hypnotising indie rock songs. The guitars and vocals stand out in the sound, as both have bells and whistles to make it interesting, but not so much that it’s in-your-face. There’s a lot of cool tricks and flair going on with the guitar, with bountiful amounts of pedals being present that boi oh boi sound cool (particularly that distortion malarkey), and with the vocals, Yorke brings falsettos and wails into the mix to give his performances brilliant variety. And, in the album’s opener, Planet Telex, there’s a very welcome dosage of piano.
On the other end of the spectrum you’ve got all sorts of awesomeness, including Fake Plastic Trees, High and Dry, Black Star, and, incidentally my favourite Radiohead song, Street Spirit (Fade Out). In these tracks, there are still a lot of features that can be heard in the more energetic songs, but to a more understated extent and a much larger emphasis on acoustic guitars and gentle melodies. These light melodies, floaty guitar patterns and drifting vocals are carried by walking basslines and solid drumbeats in a masterfully relaxing and catchy sound. This sound is complemented by contemplative lyrics and with its overall melancholy sound and minor chords it’s not depressing so much as emotionally potent. And damn, it really brings out the goosebumps. I’m a real sucker for music that does that.
Particularly in the closing track, Street Spirit (Fade Out), the soft broken chords at the beginning of the song cycle through it and are a perfect foundation to be built upon with soundscapes, acoustic accompaniments, growing drums and bass to make it a beautiful and progressive piece which never goes overboard and is always something that can be drifted off to. And, you can just feel the meaning in Yorke’s vocals here.
In conclusion, The Bends is a fantastic record, and to my untrained ears, probably one of the best British albums of the 90’s and certainly one of the best rock albums of its era. I’ve fallen in love with every part of it, from the light melancholy to its youthful optimism, with songs like Just being stuck in my head for hours and songs like Street Spirit (Fade Out) being some of the best emotional music I’ve personally heard. The Bends is an album with a beautiful flow, and in that is filled with angst, sadness, and optimism all at the same time, each aspect represented with equal passion; and, it ends up being infectious as a result. It’s also got a brilliant mix, particularly for its time. I mean, I wanna make this a more balanced review by writing about flaws of the album, but I honestly don’t think there’s anything I dislike about it. I suppose something I can say is that Sulk doesn’t quite grab me like the rest of the album for whatever reason.
But, my question is, why the hell did it take me so long to try this album!? Plus, if anyone tells you that Radiohead is just miserable pointless claptrap, they’re just plain wrong.
BEST TRACKS: Street Spirit (Fade Out), Just, Fake Plastic Trees, The Bends, My Iron Lung, High and Dry
WORST TRACK(S): Sulk
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