Tuesday, February 12, 2013
50 GREAT ALBUMS IN MY 50th YEAR (Part 11)
This 1995 LP is one that features highly in many a critics' list of all time classic LPs. For once, I'm not going to argue with them.
My first ever glimpse of Radiohead never had me thinking they would one day be THE band that so many used as the yardstick for artistic excellence. The occasion was when they opened for The Frank & Walters at two very small venues in Edinburgh and Glasgow in September 1992. They were, as both myself and Jacques the Kipper commented at the time a fairly decent support band but the lead singer was a bit too mumbly and introvert for our tastes at the time.
My next glimpse came in December 1993 at the Glasgow Barrowlands when they opened for James. By this time Radiohead had enjoyed an American hit with Creep and so the audience gave them a very respectful listen. This time I noted that the singer had a bit more stage presence but what was more interesting was that the guitarist was shit-hot. But it still wasn't enough to make me want to buy Pablo Honey, the LP that had been in the shops for the best part of the year.
Fast forward to early 1995. The second album is considered to be the most difficult to record in any band's career as they've run out of all the songs that sustained them when they set out with their ambitions to make the big time. Not so Radiohead.
The Bends is is the most quantum of leaps imaginable from Pablo Honey - and at a time when being from these shores meant having an eye on the pop charts and riding on the coattails of the Britpop movement, this was a real breath of fresh air.
There are tracks, such as opener Planet Telex, which somehow manage to sound futuristic and retro at the same time thanks in part to the use of keyboards which had seemingly gone out fashion at the time. There's some incredible guitar playing all the way through the album - particularly on the title track as well as the later semi-hit single Just and the grunge-esque and wonderful Bones. But what makes this album a cut above most is the beauty of the music on the slow or mid-temp numbers that is more than matched by Thom Yorke's fragile vocal delivery - tracks like (Nice Dream), Bulletproof and Street Spirit being perhaps the best examples.
And then there's the magnificence of Fake Plastic Trees. Here's what I said back in 2008 when it was put in at #25 in the 45 45s at 45 series:-
You can scour the internet and see that the song is pretty special to a lot of people, but there’s a bit of argument as to what exactly it is about. What can’t be denied is that Thom Yorke delivers an incredibly intense and moving vocal while the boys in the band deliver a haunting and memorable tune and melody.
It is clearly about something that is far from natural – the constant use of words like rubber, plastic and polystyrene only help emphasise that point. But is it about an artificial feeling of love that the protagonist has for someone, or does it have a deeper meaning? Is it indeed the template for Radiohead’s manifesto for the future in which their disgust about the way the planet is being treated would come to dominate how their songs sounded as well as the band's philosophy and outlook on things?
I’m not entirely sure, and I’ve said previously, I tend not to delve too deep into the meaning of lyrics. They are important, but no more so than the music. This is a song that can provoke so many emotions in me, depending on my mood and state of mind, and there’s not many others that I can say that about.
mp3 : Radiohead - The Bends
mp3 : Radiohead - Fake Plastic Trees
mp3 : Radiohead - Bulletproof....I Wish I Was
I said at the outset that I wasn't doing these 50 LPs as a rundown.....but if I was The Bends would, without any question at all, be Top 3......