While Radiohead saw its stock rising in 1994, it wasn't until 1995's The Bends that it really became a blue chip band. And for good reason. The quintet honed its talent for bombastic Brit Rock, yet still preserved an edge of unpredictability. Even singles like the title track didn't give in to the kind of swooning guitar clichs usually embraced by commercial radio. If the CD proved anything, it was that Radiohead could find solid ground between pop experimentation and the tradition of born-in-the-bone, balls-out rock.
After the massive success of Pablo Honey
--or, more specifically, the single "Creep"--had made them a household name, most had written Radiohead off as one-hit wonders. That they could return with an album as awesome and monumental as The Bends
, therefore, must have been particularly unexpected. Not that Pablo Honey
is a bad album, but rather, when compared to the epic grandeur of The Bends
, it's obvious that the five Oxford-based boys had matured immensely since the release of their debut. "High And Dry", "Just", "Street Spirit", "Fake Plastic Trees": nary a pop song among them, yet it's testament to their greatness that they all were hit singles. And really, it's easy to see why: Thom Yorke's falsetto crying over a wall of acoustic and electric guitars, as lyrics and music blend to create a masterpiece of melancholy beauty. The Bends
is one of the most essential albums of the 1990s, and a spectacular indicator of further greatness to come. --Robert Burrow