The Eraser

Thom Yorke

XL Recordings, 2006

REVIEW BY: Shane M. Liebler

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/15/2006

Solo albums are risky business. Might be magnificent, may be mindless matter.

A guy whose help put together between two to five (depending on who you ask) of the greatest albums of the modern age with Radiohead begins at a major disadvantage. Could be career-defining, can be a catastrophe.

Thom Yorke keeps his genius intact as he stretches droning laptop arrangements over 40 minutes and waxes his trademark whimper across nine tidy tracks. Thom’s been flirting with this record for years, increasing electronic accents on every Radiohead album since my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 OK Computer.

Most of Eraser actually sounds like his band’s most recent Hail To The Thief, only without the band (“And It Rained All Night” sounds suspiciously similar to “Where I End And You Begin” minus the energy). The abrupt flow of minimalist pops and clicks accompanied by piano and guitar flourishes has changed little, but Thom’s tunefulness has.

Though the intro, singing, chorus, intro with variation, outro formula of each composition becomes irritating if you pay too much attention, Yorke also provides some pretty decent hooks like “We think the same thing at the same time / We just can’t do anything about it,” on “Harrowdown Hill” or “Hey, hey / The devil may” on “Skip Divided.”

Several of the tracks, particularly the title cut, “Black Swan” and “Atoms for Peace,” are instantly memorable in the sublime way you could begin humming in the shower and forget where you heard it.

More strikingly, this may be the first time I’ve ever been able to understand what Yorke is saying without the aid of the CD jacket. I did need to grab the dictionary, though. Who knew that “bitumen” is a mixture of hydrocarbons used in tar and asphalt? I do now. At any rate, the vocal clarity is a major plus.

“People get crushed like biscuit crumbs / And laid down in the bitumen / You have tried your best to please everyone / But it just isn't happening,” is followed by a calm “This is fucked up, fucked up” chorus that typifies Yorke’s clever imagery and delightfully depressing style on “Black Swan.” His voice flutters impressively as he sings “I want you to get out / And make it work” on the brisk “Atoms For Peace.”

As with most of Radiohead’s catalog, there’s plenty to explore here, so repeat listens are a must. I’m going to hold back my high ratings for the next Radiohead LP, but Yorke’s experiment is certainly an original and potentially rewarding one. I can’t say I expected anything more or less.

Rating: B-

User Rating: B+


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© 2006 Shane M. Liebler and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of XL Recordings, and is used for informational purposes only.