A bands second album is usually met with such high expectations if their first is filled with lots of praise that a lot of bands fail. Though sometimes the second album is beyond what you would expect. At the start of 1994, Radiohead began working on song arrangements for The Bends. The band nearly broke up due to the pressure of sudden success of Pablo Honey, as the tour extended into its second year. The band chose John Leckie to produce their new album. Leckie had been the producer on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, and The Stone Roses debut. The engineer Nigel Godrich would later go on to become Radiohead’s go to producer for all albums to come. The band found the first two months of work on the album difficult. The band’s record label, EMI, had set an October 1994 release date for the record, which later proved unrealistic. EMI also suggested Radiohead should record the album’s lead single first. No one could agree on what the lead single should be, so the band worked on four tracks they considered candidates: “Sulk”, “The Bends”, “Just”, and “Nice Dream”. This proved to be counter productive and slowed things down. Jonny Greenwood would also add to the slow down by experimenting with several rented guitars and amplifiers in order to discover “a really special sound” for his instrument, despite Leckie’s belief that Greenwood already had one. Also during this time tensions were coming to a boil between Thom Yorke and the rest of the band. So John Leckie suggested to Thom that he record some songs by himself on guitar. During this time the band had taken a short break to do a small tour and recharge. The break for the tour proved to be just what they needed. Radiohead completed recording the album at Abbey Road Studios in London, where Leckie also mixed some of the songs. The Bends marked the start of a gradual turn in Thom Yorke’s songwriting approach from personal angst to the more cryptic lyrics and social and global themes that would come to dominate the band’s later work.This would also be the last Radiohead album to me predominantly “raw” and without any electronic elements.
The Bends has long been my favorite album of Radiohead. Don’t get me wrong I love OK Computer and Kid A, but this album a a whole is fantastic. The songs, the way they were written and then the track listing make this a perfect album. From the first note of “Planet Telex,”to the swooning “High and Dry, the more upbeat almost rocking, “Just,” and the perfect closer in “Street Spirit (Fade Out),” The Bends is a masterpiece and after 20 years still holds just as though it were released today.
Radiohead- The Bends:
By: Brian Lacy