Tuesday, 9 November 2010

'Can't get the stink out, it's been hanging round for days' by @diaryofaledger

It's easy to forget where Radiohead were on the musical landscape before The Bends came out.  Pablo Honey, the previous and debut album had failed to set the world alight, only Creep really getting any airplay and only after a radio edit to remove the swearing.

To put it in perspective I saw them in Portsmouth supporting James, who were touring Laid, just prior to the release of The Bends.  While I stood up and sung along to the Pablo Honey tracks, nearly everyone else was sat down, barely paying any attention.  They had a presence on stage though, an energy and synchronicity that I'd not seen before from a band.  I can't remember what song it was, but there was a moment where all the band members (apart from drummer Phil Selway) stepped forward and struck their guitars at the same time.  It sounds a bit Status Quo put like that... it wasn't though, it was one of the coolest things I'd ever seen.

My Iron Lung came out as the first single and I wasn't sure I liked it.  It felt cold and emotionless and it wasn't until I heard the songs on the rest of the album that I grew to love it.  It was part of the whole, the majesty of The Bends.

It starts with that strange wind like sound at the beginning of Planet Telex that becomes chopped up and dissolves into that deliciously dirty guitar and Yorke's vocal.  It's all about sound.  Radiohead are the masters of manipulating the noise they make, creating beauty from a cacophony of instruments.  Listen to Planet Telex, there's just so much going on.

The title track explodes into life.  The guitars as sneering as the lyrics.  That, 'blow me sky high,' line is as potent as anything else they ever did.  I love how the guitar solo, if that's what it is, sits over the top the throb, and then how the energy dissipates for the last line.

Don't Leave Me High and Dry is one of those songs that's simplicity belies its brilliance.  That yearning chorus and beautiful tune working perfectly together.  It works so well in tandem with Fake Plastic Trees a song about how false most of the modern world is which features my favourite Yorke vocal who's just completely committed and genuine.

Bones is proper balls out Radiohead.  The kind they buried after OK Computer.  I love it and miss them releasing songs like it.

Anyway, I'm banging on about every track and that's not the done thing.  Do I have a favourite?  Yes.  Black Star.  I love how it starts and it feels like it's already been playing for an age.  I love how it so perfectly sums up what it's like to miss someone and I love, well I love it for one line.  I'll leave you to figure out what one it but around 15 years ago on a train I had a moment that mirrored it.

The whole album is an amazing journey.  Seriously if you don't own this, WTF are you playing at?

Do I prefer it to what followed?  I think both OK Computer and The Bends are two of the greatest albums ever released, by a band that rose above themselves and challenged their abilities.  I can listen to either and declare it better than the other.  So the answer is 'no'.  And sometimes 'yes'.


Mikey D said...

Excellent post mate. I agree that The Bends and OK Computer are two of the best albums ever made. I've never been able to decide which I love more.

@maverick99sback said...

This one was by Gray, actually.

I've been spending the morning wondering WHY I HATE THEM SO MUCH!

We def narrowed it down to a poor, (prob not on my part), sexual experience.