Tuesday, July 11, 2006

He hasn't quite disappeared completely

The solo album that isn't. Thom Yorke insists that this is no solo project. Well, sorry Thom, but it is. It's just you. Going SOLO. I understand you don't want to scare fans inot thinking you're breaking up the band, but unless you consider Johnny Greenwood playing a bit of piano, or Nigel Godrich (who else) producing to be collaborative, this is very much a solo album.
And it's a pretty good one. Imagine a Radiohead album without Radiohead. Stupid as it sounds, what you're thinking of is most likely quite close to what we have here: The Eraser contains what are now Yorke's trademark skittering beats, electronic noise and broken time signatures, but actually stops short (mostly) from taking a step into what would be avant-garde, even for Radiohead, with the exception of the disturbing (and disturbed) 'Skip Divided'.
The big difference here, and the thing that truly sets this apart from any of the group's work, is the personal nature of the material. Previously, when Yorke has sung 'you' one tends to imagine he's referring to anyone, speaking in the second person, always making a somewhat rhetorical statement about the sorry state of the world. Here, he's actually speaking directly to (apparently) a very specific person. When, on album highlight 'Black Swan' he mumbles 'Do yourself a favour and pack your bags', it actually sounds like a relationship song. A rocky one nonetheless, as evidenced by the chorus 'Cause this is fucked up, fucked up'.
It's always so refreshing to hear a singer capable of swearing in song without resorting to cliche.
'Harrowdown Hill', the location of the suicide of Dr David Kelly, the British intelligence specialist is a deeply moving portrait of a man contemplating ending it all, over a scratchy, almost funky bassline. And 'Atoms for Peace' finds Yorke's vocals at possibly their sweetest ever.
The Eraser always feels ready to pack up its bags and leave, but hangs around, forlornly, but still there. And it's the brief flashes of hope that seem to shine through each song that make this a gem. If you like Radiohead post-OK computer, you'll like The Eraser, but don't expect it to make you smile.


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