I think The Bends was a great album... it's just very straight forward. Intro verse chorus verse bridge chorus x2 outro. There are some well written songs there, but it's just not what excites me. Don't get me wrong, I love bluesy/sloppy/garagey/classic/good ole' rock&roll...but there are dozens of bands that do THAT better than Radiohead does. The Bends, as an album, doesn't really stand apart from other like-minded artist's albums from the same era. The Bends sounds exactly like what it is– a talented group of musicians feeling one another out, trying to find an identity. I guess for me, The Bends is most interesting because it's a Radiohead album, before Radiohead knew what Radiohead sounded like. haha. Made sense to me.....how about you?
Ok Computer, Kid A, In Rainbows...all of those records were incredibly distinct. Not only were/are they markedly different from one another, but each of those records is vastly different than everything else that's out there.
I like Radiohead for their ability to reinvent themselves and to push genre tropes in new directions....all the while remaining genuine. Plenty of artists/bands go on to make "challenging" "artsy" records, but they usually go that route when they're out of ideas...it's easier to make a meandering, self-indulgent "concept" record that sounds like shit, because they can then hide behind the " Well, you just didn't get it...it was over your head!" excuse. There's a fine line between being experimental and envelope pushing, and just being hackey. I guess it boils down to the fact that Radiohead just seems to have really great taste.