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| Highest Rated 2006
Thom Yorke: The Eraser
Wouldn’t it be great if Radiohead front man Thom Yorke broke free on his
debut solo disc and made a straight up electro-soul album à la Jamie Lidell
on last year’s excellent
Multiply? Imagine an entire album where Yorke puts aside his paranoiac
worldview and embraces the full range of his gorgeous pipes, untreated by
studio gadgetry, wholly unfettered. Certainly, the notion of Yorke going all
Marvin Gaye on us would be unexpected. But wouldn’t it be a wonderful left
turn? Thom Yorke lays down the burden of holding the handbasket we’re all
going to hell in and gets his groove on. Brilliant, Thom, brilliant!
The Eraser, alas, is nothing like the opening-paragraph fantasy
posited in this review. What we’ve got is a collection of samples, throbbing
bass lines and stray melodic threads kicking around Yorke’s PowerBook,
stitched together by Yorke and longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich.
Toss in par-for-the-course Yorke-ian lyrics regarding uncertainty, false
identities and nasty conspiracies, and the results are competent, if
unsurprising. No sweet love being made anywhere, just a surplus of muted
desperation, passive-aggressive anxieties and modern-age queasiness.
Eraser opens with a woozy piano and closes with a slightly less hesitant
minor-key mutter. In between, Yorke and Godrich offer airy, electro-glide
sketches (the title track), an intriguing digital shuffle (“Analyse,” which
suitably examines a hectic treadmill life that leaves no time for
reflection), and edgily repetitive clicks and tumbles (“The Clock”).
Out of its nine tracks, Eraser sports three stellar cuts: The moody
bitch-and-moan session “Black Swan,” wherein Yorke offers such
quintessentially conflicted observations as, “I made it to the top, made it
to the top / This is fucked up, fucked up”; “And It Rained All Night,” a
punchy, powerful tale of apocalyptic cleansing; and the blood-boiling-angry
“Harrowdown Hill,” about late United Nations weapons inspector Dr. David
Kelly, whose body was found in a wooded area of the titular location.
Accusatory lines like “You will be dispensed with / When you become
inconvenient” offer abundant grist for conspiracy-buff mills.
What makes that trio of songs stand out amongst the others is their
distinctive natures and intensity of execution. Consider the aforementioned
“The Clock,” which cuts out abruptly and feels unfinished, as if Yorke had a
really good initial loop but couldn’t figure out a suitable way to properly
develop it; or “Atoms For Peace,” in which Yorke’s voice threatens to break
free, but never quite does (though it does contain the album’s best couplet:
“Peel all your layers off / I want to eat your artichoke heart”).
The closing “Cymbal Rush” appears to be about an artist overwhelmed by the
creative process and its resulting detritus (“Try to save your house / Try
to save your songs / Try to run / But they followed you on the hill”).
Perhaps The Eraser is just the sort of palette cleanser Yorke needed
as a reenergized Radiohead preps its next studio release. The erasure of
stray bits from Yorke’s creative hard drive has been salvaged into something
approximating a proper solo release. Shame we didn’t get a rendition of
“Let’s Get it On,” though.
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