Rosie Carney: The Bends review: Twisting a classic into fresh new shapes
In more recent times, the rock retrospective industry has tended to hone in on Radiohead’s OK Computer or Kid A at the expense of The Bends. The once-omnipresent stature of their second album has slightly faded in the latter half of the last quarter of a century since its release.
Most Radiohead albums now arrive as fully formed sensations but, lest we forget, The Bends was their career-defining sleeper hit, slowly winning over fans by MTV saturation and stealth.
Up until the release of The Bends, Radiohead were written off as a freakish one-hit wonder. The band famously perceived Creep to be such an albatross that they pointedly refused to perform it for years. The Bends was the polar opposite to the so-called sophomore slump, and its release changed absolutely everything for the Oxford quintet.
David Bowie, Nick Cave and Johnny Cash all redefined the covers record as an inimitable selection box of songs, but taking on a whole album tends to be regarded as a baffling vanity project, if not with outright hostility. Exhibit A: Ryan Adams covering 1989 by Taylor Swift.
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The Bends also inadvertently inspired an entire post-Britpop genre, which was popularised by insipid bands such as Travis and Coldplay, and memorably blasted by Creation Records boss Alan McGee as music for “bedwetters”.
Rosie Carney has refreshingly reinvented, reinterpreted and reclaimed this landmark record from the preserve of boring blokes. For her, the project coincided with everything going 2020. Bones was recorded the day before she flew home to Ireland to be with her family for lockdown.
The old adage about a doing good cover – make the song your own – applies here. The crowning achievement of Carney’s take on The Bends is that you momentarily forget you’re actually listening to an album by Radiohead. She has clearly lived and breathed these songs, using them as a shield and a sword to bolster her mental health, like countless others who have taken this album to their hearts.
Stripped of singer Thom Yorke’s twitching drama and Jonny Greenwood’s squalling guitar solos, Just is a minimal joy. Carney initially recorded the album using Garageband; her co-producer, JMAC, remotely added subtle instrumentation including violin, viola, cello, drums, horns, woodwind and vocoder.
Curiously, this approach will probably appeal to Radiohead’s long-lost core audience, who would consider Yorke’s recent collaboration with Four Tet and Burial as indulgent nonsense and mistakenly think that they spectacularly lost the plot with Kid A.
Carney imbues her rendition of Street Spirit (Fade Out) with an audible sense of resilience, throwing fresh light on a classic song. The final lyrics she utters can be construed as one of the most meaningful acts in abnormal times: “Immerse your soul in love.”