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.