Radiohead's The Bends shows an almost dramatic improvement over their grunge-lite debut Pablo Honey. Unlike the albums that would follow this one, The Bends is front-loaded with very good individual songs, like the opener, "Planet Telex," the singles, "High and Dry" and "Fake Plastic Trees," and my two favorites, "(Nice Dream)" and "Just." Not only that, these songs are relatively free of studio tinkering. These are well-constructed pop songs that signal the demise of "grunge" (within the new corporate model of "alternative music") and a new approach to popular guitar-based pop/rock music. Emerging as a space-age R.E.M., Radiohead here prove they can rock, but can also produce rousing slower numbers. In some instances, like "High and Dry" and "Fake Plastic Trees," they do both. On The Bends, noted for the spring-recoil reverb that is spread across its tracks (thanks to overlooked producer John Leckie), they create a guitar record where the guitars sound often sound like a string-section. Also, Thom Yorke's vocals rival Bono's for operatic rock passion (without the latter's self-importance). While a revelation, the album ends with a thud, as a the last three songs cannot match the power of the previous nine tracks. To a certain extent, Radiohead "arrived" with The Bends. And while I tend to view Radiohead as a vastly overrated group, The Bends proves exactly what they are capable of.