Thursday, December 07, 2006


The Eraser
three and a half stars out of a possible five
[XL] There's a rather throwaway scene near the end of Radiohead's 1999 tour documentary Meeting People Is Easy that shows Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood tooling around with some electronic gear during a break on the tour bus. That clip of course became prophetic when the group's next album, Kid A, came to light, loaded almost exclusively with electronic vignettes turned into songs only by Yorke's unstoppable melodic sense. That album did as much to push the integration of electronics and songcraft that we take for granted now as OK Computer did to revitalize the notion of rock album as srtistic statement. Hail to the Thief made a tepid return to the progressive rock energy of early albums while refusing to abandon the progress made, but nothing that shook the system the way albums two [The Bends] through five [Amnesiac] did. Now, with a new release planned for 2007, Radiohead is spending the summer on the road, testing out new material that is being bootlegged at various quality and massive quantity and distributed instantly via broadband. And it is against all this static that Yorke rather quietly announced the release of a solo album. Would Radiohead obsessives get whiplash from the sudden shift in attention?

As can be expected, The Eraser singles out Yorke's continuing love affair with microsound electronics as the backing for his most outstanding instrument -- his own voice. As a result, it plays like the younger brother to Kid A, skittering clicks and bleeps along with Yorke's vocals at some of their most alienated-alien yet. Which is lovely as always, but the record has trouble gaining momentum beyond the fact that it's Thom Yorke and Thom Yorke is, of course, a genius.

Not until the seventh track, "And It Rained All Night", with its liquid bass line, do things really get moving. The following "Harrowdown Hill" has the most passionate vocal of the collection while "Cymbal Rush" does a Plastikmanesque ping-pong effect, which makes for a fantastic closer. Yep, closer,, a mere 12 minutes after things get really interesting. Perhaps an EP would have better-suited Yorke's solo aspirations. It's his own damn fault for setting the bar so high.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

2006 July 13 | The Big Takeover

Thom Yorke - The Eraser (XL)
by Suzanne Baran
13 July 2006

In his newly released solo album, The Eraser, RADIOHEAD frontman THOM YORKE leads the listener down a gloomy path. He makes us think and struggle with ugly conclusions drawn from life.
Yorke hones in on his greatest skill—his use of his voice as an instrument. It is effective alone or with beats, and provides a very lucid interpretation of the content and tone of his songs—little is obscured here.
The LP is chock full of Yorke expressing distress about environmental issues—the title song references the inescapable voracity of the rising tides. The cover art features a King Canute figurine attempting to ward off a colossal wave.
Yorke makes waves of his own while fending off others. The title track deals with obliterating “truths,” perhaps the ones we find the most painful to bear—such as why we are involved in the war in Iraq.
Songs like “Atoms for Peace” (named after an old speech title of President DWIGHT EISENHOWER) struggle with finding sense in chaos: “No more talk about the old days / It’s time for something great.”
In “Harrowdown Hill,” a song that Yorke has spoken of as his most angry one on the album, he sings, “Don’t ask me / Ask the Ministry.” Harrowdown Hill, in Oxfordshire, England, is where the dead body of Dr. DAVID KELLY was found. Kelly was an employee of the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense (MoD); as an expert in biological warfare, his work included a stint as a United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq. His discussions with a journalist about the British government’s records on weapons of mass destruction (W.M.D.) in Iraq indirectly ignited a significant political scandal. Kelly was found dead days after he appeared before a Parliamentary committee investigating the matter.
The Hutton Inquiry conducted a public investigation into his death and determined that he killed himself. But the song poses its own question about Kelly’s fate: “Did I fall or was I pushed?” Kelly was thought to have evidence that called into question the belief that SADAAM HUSSEIN had possession of W.M.D. By dispensing with Kelly and his evidence, the U.K. would have been able to secure the authorization needed to join in the invasion of Iraq.
In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Yorke said that “the government and the Ministry of Defense… were directly responsible for outing him and that put him in a position of unbearable pressure that he couldn’t deal with, and they knew they were doing it and what it would do to him. I’ve been feeling really uncomfortable about that song lately, because it was a personal tragedy, and Dr. Kelly has a family who are still grieving. But I also felt that not to write it would perhaps have been worse.”
For me, this album stands as testimonial to a songwriter who is willing to openly talk about tragic events that lead him to question the viability of his government’s involvement in this awful war. Yorke knows that he will sell tons of albums based on his name alone, yet he chooses to infuse his work with a level of integrity in order to inspire his listeners to address the issues of the world-at-large. Music is not always the best venue for espousing or denigrating political ideals, but wouldn’t it be refreshing if more artists as popular and influential as Yorke is would put their personal pain aside and write about issues that address the collective struggles of people throughout the world?

Thom Yorke: The Eraser
Out: 09/07/2006
Label: XL Recordings
It can't be easy being Thom Yorke. If you can strip away the obvious benefits of being a 'rock star', and the massive assumptions most people make about what this entails, then famous people are essentially just like everyone else. Success and money do not automatically equal happiness or fulfillment, or even satisfaction and comfort.

Take into consideration the myriad complexities that public life can create if you allow it to do so. In the case of Radiohead, and even more so with Yorke specifically, there are all sorts of issues that arise from being in the public eye. Attempts to use bands to create political capital are well documented throughout the past few decades, as are Radiohead's responses: they refused to meet with Tony Blair (he has 'no environtmental credentials') whilst agreeing to meet with Gordon Brown; they released a press statement denying suggested links between a request for 'Fake Plastic Trees' by Tory hopeful David Cameron and its appearance in a subsequent setlist; they've been criticised politically both for doing an unbranded, independent 'big top' tour and then a few years later agreeing to headline V, the most anodyne, corporate festival of them all. For Thom Yorke, it isn't as simple as happily trotting up to Number 10, Noel Gallagher style. Because, if you look for them, there are strings everywhere: tripwires, traps, manipulation, conspiracy, hypocrisy and injustice. It could almost be that Radiohead (a name suggested by EMI back when they were still a high school band called On a Friday) really are tuned in to having the potential ramifications of everything they do beamed directly into the brain.

So nobody expected Thom Yorke's first solo album to be a basket of roses. This album has a pervasive nervousness and tension throughout; a taut mass of tick-tock waiting-room-clock beats, scratchy guitar parts and uptight synth. The opener and title track is a softly issued threat, or a statement of intent, "The more you try to erase me, the clearer I appear" echoing the (similarly disenfranchised) Morrissey line "the more you ignore me the closer I get". From a hissy piano loop beginning, it spreads into a deceptively soft chorus cushioned with ten-deep reverbed vocals, then dissolves slowly into distorted synth and gentle howls.

This is an album that's at its best when the hooks come to the fore. 'Black Swan''s scrawny picked guitar and clicky beat is both indelibly catchy and quietly brooding, 'Harrowdown Hill' (a timely sideways glance at the death of Dr David Kelly) builds into a cold, menacing and lonely conspiracy tale ("don't walk the plank like I did - you'll be dispensed with"), and 'Atoms For Peace' contains rare moments of optimism ("no more talking about the old days - it's time for something great"). While these high points are probably worth buying this album for alone, it's a bit of a shame that some of the other tracks aren't quite in the same league. But with Thom Yorke's singing voice as the centrepiece of the album, from mumbled semi-coherent rants and mantras to his soaring falsetto, even a song that doesn't sound entirely memorable is worth listening to.

So, while The Eraser might not be a genre-busting classic like Kid A or OK Computer it's a good, solid record nonetheless - even if many people might find that the skip button gets used just that little bit too often for it to be the masterpiece they may have been hoping for.

Rating: 7
Words: John Brainlove

Thom Yorke: Harrowdown Hill
Out: 21/08/2006
Label: XL Recordings
It’s singles like this that have the listener longing for the immediate return of Top Of The Pops - to see Thom Yorke twitching his way from left to right across a BBC studio stage before a gaggle of bewildered teenagers waiting for BoyBandX to deliver their sole key change would be a wondrous thing.

With an immediate bassline that’d sit prettily in a composition by The Rapture, it’s entirely likely that ‘Harrowdown Hill’ would make the TOTP cut, slipping onto Sunday night television screens between a slew of sound-alike production-line poppers. The subject matter’s already well-documented – Dr David Kelly winding up dead on the titular hill – but what album reviews may have failed to mention is just how good Yorke’s bouncing beats actually are; how effectively they have the first-timer following the singer’s lead, jerking arms and legs and losing themselves, entirely, in four minutes of solo work that stand up well against anything that ‘R’ band has ever penned.

Little on parent album The Eraser, though, is of a quality comparable to ‘Harrowdown Hill’, so don’t expect too many further singles to follow in its wake. Instead, assume Yorke’s got ‘R’ matters on his mind when he sings “We think the same things at the same time”; it surely goes without saying that his audience at large is rabidly expectant, quite probably palpitating come each and every update on the recording of said band’s seventh studio album.

Still, it would have been a rare treat to see the guy dance, as if possessed by playful spirits, while viewers simultaneously tucked greedily into their roasts.

Rating: 8
Words: Mike Diver

Thom Yorke: Analyse
Out: 06/11/2006
Label: XL Recordings
Quite how Thom Yorke maintains such a fantastic level of quality with his output, both as a fifth of Radiohead and when releasing fuzzing and buzzing electronica records under his solo banner, is wonderfully perplexing. Surely, someday soon, the man will slip and unleash upon the world a record so disappointingly disparate from what’s preceded it – not a single toe trailing waters past – that fans long-term and fleeting will join arms and ignore his misfiring melancholy musings.

It could have happened with The Eraser, easily; crossed arms and turned-away faces unresponsive to the man’s Warp-indebted arrangements. That it didn’t is because of songs like this – ‘Analyse’, said album’s second track and the second single from it, is a majestic four minutes-ish of sprinkled electro' percussion and carefully and gracefully attended-to keys. It’s both immediate and distant, warmly human and coldly alien. It’s Radiohead stripped of the sometimes-distracting bombast, Yorke’s voice allowed the freedom to soar and tumble without nerve-shredding guitars diverting ears away from its still-incredible impact.

Expect a few copies of The Eraser to find their way into Christmas stockings as a direct result of the release of this single – it’s a soul-stirrer, a brain-tingling exercise in aural exploration that marks its maker out as the maverick he’s rightfully recognised as. Well, by all people except the Mercury judging panel, perhaps. When they recognise consistency over single-record success, rest assured that Thom’ll be first in line to leave his trophy on stage, a beaming but fake smile on his know-better face.

Rating: 8
Words: Mike Diver

Calgary Sun

Yorke recycles music in an interesting way
By DARRYL STERDAN -- Winnipeg Sun

Thom Yorke

Some artists make solo albums to spread their wings and experiment. We can't see Radiohead singer Thom Yorke needing that outlet. Others use them to get all personal.

But any fan knows Yorke's not exactly Mr. Touchy-Feely. Still others use them to announce solo careers. But Yorke kept his extracurricular outing under wraps until his band were writing and touring, which puts the kibosh on that.

So why did he make The Eraser? Our best guess: He can't bear to throw anything away. So instead of erasing the leftover bits and beats and melodies and lyrics he's accumulated in his laptop over the past few years, he downloaded those skittery beatbox rhythms, dusty loops and bleep-bloop sequences to a computer with ProTools. He overdubbed some stark piano chords, atmospheric synths and skritchy, spindly guitars with the help of pal and producer Nigel Godrich. He added some vocals. And voila! A sumptuous solo album of Morning Bellish electro-ballads and tons of free space on the hard drive.

Of course, those expecting The Eraser to sound like a full-blown Radiohead disc might be in for a slight disappointment. Aside from Yorke's bleating, mushmouthed angst and oblique lyrics -- which could be about love or fame or identity or politics or the price of tofu in Tokyo for all we can parse -- these shadowy, vaguely unsettling works bear only slight resemblance to his day job.

Not that we're complaining. In fact, you could argue the band would benefit from embracing the economy and minimalism at work (and play) in these cuts, which tend to be more songlike and straightforward than some Radiohead fare, despite their techno leanings. So when you get down to it, you don't have to know why Yorke made The Eraser. You can just be glad he did.

Track Listing:

1. The Eraser
2. Analyse
3. The Clock
4. Black Swan
5. Skip Divided
6. Atoms For Peace
7. And It Rained All Night
8. Harrowdown Hill
9. Cymbal Rush


Thom Yorke
The Eraser
[XL; 2006]
Rating: 6.6

No band of the last 15 years has seen its individual players revered to the same extent as Radiohead's. Whether or not you subscribe to the church of the blinking bear, it's hard to argue against the incredible good fortune that's seen them blossom from the nebbish and resoundingly ordinary young group On a Friday. While Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood will always stand at stage center, you barely need 10 minutes with a Radiohead record to understand how readily the band shifts its weight from one member to another; so strong are their individual voices as musicians that you can practically hear the pistons moving underneath their songs.

But we're coming up on seven albums now, each one of them (if you believe the soundbites) an utterly excruciating process. That, combined with Yorke's headstrong affinity for laptop music and his MP3 era-friendly motto of expediency, has pried the door open for a solo quickie. So, on the heels of the news that Radiohead's vaunted seventh full-length wouldn't be ready any time soon, Yorke carpet-bombed fans in May by announcing The Eraser.

That was a little over seven weeks ago, and you can be sure the window between name and release was purposely kept small so as to mitigate against the weight of expectation. We know this because, for all their No Logo sloganeering, Radiohead have never been afraid to deploy a marketing juggernaut to herald their imminent return. If the message being transmitted here is a modest one, it's because The Eraser is a modest record. Contrary to some of the band's prior releases (and, perhaps, their legacy), it's not an attempt to remake the wheel, but rather, pretty much exactly the kind of thing you'd expect Yorke to make in his bedroom-- glitchy, sour, feminine, brooding, imperfect. It's also strikingly beautiful and thuddingly boring in maddeningly equal measure.

Let's start with the good stuff: Opener "The Eraser" rests on a hiccuping piano sample, a bubblebath of bloops and some gently insistent vocal acrobatics. "The more you try to erase me/ The more that I appear," sings Yorke, in the first of the album's many lines that could just as easily be about environmental crises as personal. Next up is the skittering "Analyse", which marries a twinkling piano lead to a breakbeat made of crushed glass. Lyrically, Yorke is in solid form, singing about algebra, candles in the city, and "no light in the dark." He's not nearly as sharp on the sleepy-eyed "Atoms for Peace" (how's this for a clanger: "Peel all your layers off/ I want to eat your artichoke heart"), but it provides some of the album's most serene moments, wherein he sets his falsetto against a wall of discordant keyboard drones to gorgeously vertiginous effect. Better still is the closer "Cymbal Rush", which comes off as "The Gloaming"'s moonstruck cousin. A wash of digital burbles and woozy drones, the song's second half relents to a set of galloping piano chords and complex rhythm tracks, making it, from a producerly standpoint, the most accomplished thing here.

Where The Eraser sags is in the middle, with tracks 3-5 falling particularly flat. Like too many of Radiohead's new songs, they contain a single weak idea dragged on interminably. "The Clock" is a tuneless clatter of insect noises and acoustic guitars that never changes course; "Black Swan" is a swampbucket "I Might Be Wrong" retread that barely even flaps its wings (nevermind gets off the ground); and the horrorshow talkie "Skip Divided", with its cursory arrangements and total absence of melody, feels like second-rate performance poetry.

On a smaller scale, the problems afflicting these tracks afflict the album as a whole; even allowing for the better-crafted songs, there's little-to-no dynamic range on The Eraser. As a listening experience, it's claustrophobic and compressed, and with rare exception, offers little in the way of wide open space. What little breathing room there is usually comes courtesy of Yorke's vocal, and while it's nice to see him once again testing the limits of what he can do naturally with his voice, it might not be enough to save the record for some.

The word 'gray' will be used to describe The Eraser, and with good reason-- unless you're predisposed to loving everything Yorke sets his voice against, you mind fight this an oppressively dreary affair. My totally catty suggestion: Don't bother with this unless you've already worn out the grooves on Jonny Greenwood's much less-heralded but completely brilliant Bodysong soundtrack. Or maybe, if you're really jonesing, set up two stereos and play both solo records at once, Zaireeka-style. I wouldn't be surprised at all if that worked.

-Mark Pytlik, July 10, 2006

Thom Yorke - The Eraser Review

5 Jun 2006, 03:06
Thom Yorke

Thom Yorke’s latest project is supposedly independent of Radiohead, however, listeners may beg to differ based on the album’s electronic Kid A/Amnesiac-esque sound and the usual creepy lyrics that are central to Thom Yorke’s style.
The title track opens the album with a synthetic pulsing keyboard that immediately tells you that this album is going to be heavily electronic. In fact, the album as a whole sounds like the result of locking a curious mad-scientist musician in a room with a only a laptop, a microphone and a pen and pad, although the pen and pad are optional.
“The Eraser” is a bizarre track that sets the tone for the rest of the album. Lyrically, Yorke is more introspective and out there, but is still in typical Thom Yorke form. As in the past, Yorke spends a lot of time meshing his voice with the rhythm of the music, blending his whiny, high-pitched wailing with the rigid machinery of noise behind him.
My favorite tracks on the album have to be “And It Rained All Night” and “Harrowed Down Hill”. “And It Rained All Night’s” rhythmic percussion and thumping synthetic bass mixed with Thom’s signature drawl and onomatopoetic mimicking of the percussion makes me feel like I’m in the middle of a rainy, hazy night, even though the California heat is on the rise. “Harrowed Down Hill’s” bassline and haunting chorus, “I’m coming home, I’m coming home/To make it alright so dry your eyes/We think the same things at the same times/We just can’t do anything about it”, really make it stand out in my mind. One of Thom’s most emotional pieces, this song really seems to bring out the angst inside his soul and voice his depression. Of course, the chanting outro doesn’t hurt either (“slip away slip away slippery slope…”).
Other standout tracks include “Analyse”, “Black Swan”, and “Atoms for Peace”. On “Analyse”, Thom’s vocals and keyboard really stood out to me. Those two elements make this track reminiscent of Radiohead’s electronic endeavors and were the reason why I fell in love with the album on my first listen. Call me a sucker for good bass lines. “Black Swan’s” bassy intro is why I really love this song. Oh and this track is one of the few that features an electric guitar. As a guitarist, I reserve the right to be biased toward tracks that have guitars in them. Other than that, the lyrics are what really do it for me. Thom Yorke comes through with yet another mystical, lyrical masterpiece, blending rhythm into melody into his signature style of singing. “Atoms for Peace”, with the muffled intro and Yorke’s high pitched whining, is another one of The Eraser’s standout tracks. I just love the line “So many allies, so many allies, so many allies” and “I want to eat your artichoke heart”.
The Eraser is one interesting album, to say the least. Although I don’t think this is for everyone, Radiohead fans will surely eat this up. The electronic feel of the album will no doubt appease to the Kid A and Amnesiac fans, while the tone and Thom Yorke’s melodic whining will reach out to fans of Hail to the Thief. Personally, I am not a big fan of Radiohead’s electronic escapades, so I was a little disgruntled with the album initially. However upon my subsequent listens, the album started to grow on me. Thom Yorke gets very creative with the electronic drum beats and basslines on The Eraser, and it is definitely worth checking out if you want something experimental and far out.
Radiohead fans rejoice! 8.5/10

Stylus magazine

Thom Yorke
The Eraser

Thom Yorke always makes his first line of any album feel incredibly instructive, particularly if you deem it as a question posed to the listener. The Eraser is no different: "Excuse me but I have to ask / Are you only being nice because you want something?" You see, even when he was downplaying breakup rumors and soft-pedaling promotion, Yorke wasn't worried that you wouldn't like The Eraser. He's worried people won't give The Eraser the close listen it deserves.

It's actually a valid concern. He knows that there's a large contingent of people who will simply put a gold star on The Eraser in hopes that with a final IDM binge, he's exorcised the wayward muse preventing him from remaking The Bends.

But the joke's on them; if it's black holes and revelations you want, look no further. While this certainly hews closely to expectations of what a Thom Yorke solo record would sound like, he follows his paranoia into the abyss and comes out with the most song-oriented album he's made since you-know-what.

Listeners won't find themselves on terrain that's too alien, as The Eraser acts as a centrifuge that siphons off Yorke's contributions to latter-day Radiohead: modal chord changes, Mobius strip melodies, blocky piano, drum sounds that get turned into tempura. If The Eraser is indeed a travelogue of Yorke's psyche, the first half proves it's a concrete jungle in there. It's one of the least psychedelic albums ever made—timbres tend to fall within a narrow spectral range between ash and steel. And yet these cold, gray slabs of sound create a humid, all-encompassing atmosphere that begins as alienating but ultimately becomes familiar.

Yorke's earned the benefit of the doubt over the years, and The Eraser rewards it. It certainly sounds monochromatic on first try, but close listens reveal intriguing details crawling about; tongue clicks, wood blocks, twitchy shakers, and undulating serpents of bass among them. Moreover, it proves that Yorke's melodic sense hasn't disappeared, but rather, it's just as effective because of its subversive nature, not in spite of it. After the wall-of-Yorke echoes on the opening title track, "Analyse" follows breathlessly on its heels with a seductive, near-tropical sway. "Black Swan" is the easiest entry point for toe-dippers. A swampy, hypnotic take on Radiohead's riff-based material, Yorke offers subtly ingratiating "ice age coming" frustration ("You have tried to please everyone / But it just isn't happening") and typically sly humor ("I don't care what the future holds / I'm not even up to date").

The Eraser's more immediate and intense second half is a twenty-minute highlight reel, following in the vein of Radiohead's most successful electro foray ("Idioteque"). "Atoms for Peace" feels like a milestone, a culmination of Yorke's long-standing desire to create lost love songs for the Richard D. James Album. On an album that reverses Yorke's tendency to meld into his band's sumptuous racket, "Atoms for Peace" is not only a standout, but one of Yorke's bravest vocal performances yet.

The apex is reached on "Harrowdown Hill," which parlays its false-start baggy beat into synthed-out high drama. A rather literal take on the mysterious, scandalous death of British weapons inspector David Kelly, it certainly comes equipped with enough Wikipedia depth to make it a message board bombshell. But you wouldn't need to know any of it to recognize it as Yorke's "angriest song." On record, Yorke's political displeasure has always seemed more borne out of timeless Orwellian paranoia than current events, but the topicality of "Harrowdown Hill" in no way narrows its main point: activism is a bitch. In character, he quavers "don't walk the plank like I did," before offering the unifying, salient thought of everyone who's ever felt the futility of conservatism: "We think the same things at the same time / We just can't do anything about it." Hail to the Thief did more than its share of preaching to the choir, but stripped of Radiohead's expectations of creating godlike music, Yorke rediscovers ground-level hopes and frustrations and becomes beautifully humanized.

If there are those who will unconditionally love The Eraser, there's just as big of a faction that will pummel the album with the sort of vitriol it would never deserve if some guy named Dom Bourque made it. I thought I was going to be one of them. I'll be honest; before I got my hands on the actual work, I assumed that this was going to be a referendum on how Ed O'Brien and Johnny Greenwood were somehow still incredibly underrated guitarists and that Nigel Godrich has become the most important band "member" since Thom started writing lyrics by throwing pieces of paper into a hat. But The Eraser is a triumph, and I'm left wondering why I expected otherwise. Maybe it was intended to temper expectations for Radiohead's new era under Spike Stent, but as is, it will always be a stunning final word for one of our generation's most reliably innovative partnerships.
Reviewed by: Ian Cohen
Reviewed on: 2006-07-10

Rolling Stone

Thom Yorke
The Eraser
RS:4of 5 StarsAverage User Rating:4of 5 Stars
View Thom Yorke's page on Rhapsody
Many people find Thom Yorke disturbing. And Thom Yorke seems to be one of them. On his excellent surprise solo album, The Eraser, he creeps himself out constantly, muttering about heartbreak amid waves of electronic keyboards. He doesn't have the rest of Radiohead to buoy him up -- it's just a man and his laptop, with hardly any guitar. Yorke comes on as a Lieutenant Columbo of the psyche, rumpled and haggard, who always has just one more question. On The Eraser, he has some particularly barbed ones. "Are you only being nice because you want something?" he asks in the opening title tune. "Be careful how you respond/You might end up in this song." Like the rest of the album, it's intensely beautiful, yet it explores the kind of emotional turmoil that makes the angst of OK Computer or The Bends sound like kid stuff.
Yorke recorded The Eraser with Nigel Godrich and kept it a secret until Radiohead hit the road, so nobody would wonder if they were splitting up. The album could hardly sound more different from the superb new uptempo songs Radiohead are debuting on their current tour. Live, Radiohead are killing crowds with the Velvets-riffing "Arpeggi" and "Bodysnatchers," or the Run-DMC tribute "15 Step," or the trimly rocked-out "Bangers 'n' Mash," which is even cooler than the classic Peter Sellers/Sophia Loren duet of the same name. But The Eraser is full of glitchy electro ballads, in the style of Kid A tracks like "Morning Bell" and "How to Disappear Completely." The structures are tighter than in Radiohead songs, centered on the vocals -- fans hoping for ten-minute ambient dub doodles will be disappointed. Yorke's voice has never sounded so fragile; his melodies have never sounded so mournful. In a word, he sounds alone. And it wears him out.

For the most part, these are sad love songs, maybe even breakup songs. They're pretty straightforward in the lyrics department, detailing a crumbling relationship full of bruises that won't heal. As Yorke puts it in "Black Swan," "You cannot kick-start a dead horse/You just cross yourself and walk away." Usually, when the word "you" comes up in a Radiohead song, it's aimed at some faceless symbol of our sick society. But in knockout tunes like "Atoms for Peace," "The Eraser" and "The Clock," Yorke seems to address an individual, somebody with whom he shares a complex emotional history. There's no percentage trying to read autobiography into Yorke's songs, or anybody else's -- the question isn't whether they're about him, it's whether they're about you. So let's just say he sounds like he knows what he's talking about. You might have to go back to Side Two of David Bowie's Low to hear a guy delve so deep inside the well of synth-pop loneliness.

"And It Rained All Night" is a typical highlight -- burbling synths, eerie percussion clicks, Eighties computer-game bleeps. And Yorke sings it exactly like Mick Jagger, which is weird. "The Eraser" has a broken stop-start piano sample, while Yorke vows, "The more you try to erase me/The more that I appear." "Black Swan" has a growling guitar line and snarling vocals, reminiscent of "I Might Be Wrong." But the peak is "Atoms for Peace," where Matmos-like synth static crackles as Yorke tries to decide whether to save his lover from herself or save her from him. No doubt these would have made excellent Radiohead songs. The Eraser is full of moments when you wait for the band to kick in, and it doesn't happen. It reminds you how much Radiohead thrive on their sense of collective creation -- even at their most downbeat, their camaraderie gives off a life-affirming energy. Yet these aren't Radiohead songs, or demos for Radiohead songs. They're something different, something we haven't heard before. Lieut Yorke is asking new questions, looking for clues to the same old mystery: how to appear, incompletely.
(Posted: Jun 26, 2006)