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“The Bends” turned 20 last Friday

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One of the most important bands in the history of modern alternative rock celebrated the 20th anniversary of their second full length album last Friday, March 13th. Emerged as RADIOHEAD‘s defining album, “The Bends” still holds true as one of the strongest rock albums of the 90s. Happy birthday, guys!

By all accounts it was a trying and extended process with the band trying to forge new sounds and approaches to songwriting. / Smells Like Infinite Sadness

As with all influence, Radiohead’s didn’t always express itself as straightforward imitation: The spiraling piano arpeggio that immediately identifies Coldplay’s gargantuan single “Clocks” sounds more joyful and transcendent in its obsessive looping than anything on the nauseous Bends, yet it might not exist without the percolating-guitar precedent at the core of “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” — a song even Thom Yorke, who always objected to a shallow image of Radiohead as mere purveyors of earnest misery, once called “the dark tunnel without the light at the end.” / Rhapsody

Two decades on, The Bends is seen as the jumping-off point for a group that’s been jumping around ever since. It’s experimental, but it also rocks, and if there were a Radiohead album everyone could agree on, this might be it. Read on for our track-by-track take on this 20-year-old collection of cockeyed beauts. /

As soon as Radiohead moved on to stranger sounds, a whole cottage industry of soundalikes popped up, striving to capture the same majesty as Radiohead had on The Bends. In a way, it might be Radiohead’s most directly influential album; there is, after all, no way Coldplay exist without that album. So there’s another first for The Bends: It’s the first time Radiohead moved on from a sound and left it for the rest of the world to process and adapt and devour. It wouldn’t be the last. / Stereogum

Since The Bends has always felt like the product of both ideas and effort, the fact that it sounds like it took neither idea nor effort is an upshot of talent. This is a raw ritual, a visionary blend of brooding texture, tension, spirit, and synth. / Consequence Of Sound

Looking back at The Bends – taking into consideration everything that has come since – it would be easy to consider it less forward-thinking than say OK Computer or Kid A, which are more regularly touted as the band’s best. Yet The Bends played such a major role in the formation of Radiohead as we know them today. It is everything that makes them one of the greatest and most influential British bands of all time – daring, captivating and emotionally raw – distilled in 12 of their purest songs. Not only that, it has hardly aged a day in 20 years. / MusicOMH

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