Music

All Things Reconsidered: Radiohead's 'The Bends' (20th Anniversary)

The Bends is 12 songs, perfectly arranged, each running three to five minutes. Together they form the blueprint on which so many rock bands owe their entire careers, particularly those in the alternative rock fold.

If there's one thing that can be said about Radiohead 20 years after The Bends, it's this: they certainly haven't left us "High and Dry".

During the 20 years that followed the 1995 release of the Oxfordshire group's sophomore album, Radiohead didn't just become a highly acclaimed and popular band. Both of those descriptions are accurate, but they're also huge understatements for a band of this stature. With LPs like 1997's OK Computer and particularly 2000's Kid A, Radiohead became icons, rock gods to whom a sea of groups would aspire to. Kid A is often called the definitive record of the '00s; OK Computer regularly dukes it out with works like My Bloody Valentine's Loveless for the same title in the '90s.

This achievement becomes all the more impressive once one places The Bends in its cultural context. At the time, it was hardly revered as a masterpiece; both critics and popular audiences still had the Pablo Honey staple "Creep" ringing in their ears, and as such many viewed The Bends as an attempt to hurdle the expectations set by that single. Many panned the record when it came out, although over time critics have come to appreciate the music, enough that it has landed on lists like Rolling Stone's 500 Best Albums of All-Time.

However, as fine an encapsulation of the '90s alternative rock sound as The Bends is, for many people it's hard to put it on too high a pedestal given the significant achievements of LPs like OK Computer. As the argument so often goes, the former album is an important stepping stone to bigger things that on its own does not represent the true sophistication of Radiohead. While that may or may not be true, it's certainly irresponsible to give The Bends such short service, even though the records the band would make after it are no doubt considerable feats. This 1995 gem, while representative of Radiohead in a more nascent stage, is still chock full of the things we have come to love about this British quintet: clever guitar riffs, Thom Yorke's high tenor, and lyrics that capture the social isolation so common in a modern technological society.

Thus, for the month of March -- the same month the album was released in 1995 -- PopMatters will examine The Bends in all of its angsty glory, pulling it apart track-by-track, analyzing the circumstances of its creation, and placing it in its pre-Y2K context. Radiohead may have gone on to give the music world a wealth of treasured music after The Bends, but 20 years later there's certainly plenty to say about this recording. It hasn't faded out yet. -- Brice Ezell

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

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Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11
Amazon
iTunes

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

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