Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep: Thom Yorke : The Eraser

Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep

Monday, July 10, 2006

Thom Yorke : The Eraser

Well the day has finally arrived. The day that the genius that is Radiohead's Thom Yorke releases his much anticipated solo album. Ever since a small announcement was made on Radiohead's Dead Air Space by Thom in early May I have been looking forward to hearing his solo effort. And so it seems has the rest of the world.

Reviews around the web have confirmed just how influential this man is and it seems he can do no wrong. The Eraser is a 40+ minute affair that manages to delight at just about every turn. Here Yorke continues down the road he has been treading ever since Kid A was released in 2000. Glitchy beats are combined with paranoid lyrics, beautiful melodies and probably spasmodic dancing from King Thom.

Yorke has often talked of his passion for Warp Records artists such as Autechre and Aphex Twin. However, on his first solo outing he manages to bring a fresh slant to an electronica world that can be at times stale and un-inspiring. In other words, there is just no-one like Thom Yorke.

Opening track, entitled "The Eraser", starts with cut-up piano and soft drum beats, actually stolen and modified from Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood. The track picks up somewhat as Yorke layers his voice of gorgeous melodies. The track ends with fuzzed out keyboards and some ghostly chanting from Yorke.

Next up, is "Analyse", featuring sweeping drums and an off-kilter melody that is so simple it shouldn't work. It really is classic Thom Yorke stuff, and he sounds particularly inspiring here. "You travel far.....What have you found!" he sings in what could be a definite single from this album. The song reminds me of "Like Spinning Plates" from Amnesiac on occasions. But he really signals his intentions for this album towards the end of "Analyse", combining his stunning vocal range with washes of keyboards, still retaining the melody and sway of the song.

"The Clock" follows, with more jerky beats mixed in with blues-ish guitar work. This song brings to mind some of Radiohead's more experimental b-sides, and may be an angle the band will be (hopefully) keen to pursue. In an interview with Mojo magazine, Yorke stated that The Eraser was "...A lot of the basic ideas kicking around when I got all of my software on my laptop". This statement does not do the album justice, because he has a superb handling of the electronics peppered throughout.

Another contender for a single is "Black Swan", again featuring blues guitar and static beats, the song comes across like a softer version of "Go To Sleep" from Hail To The Thief. However, the album takes a slight lull over the course of the next two tracks "Skip Divided" and "Atoms For Peace". They don't particularly do anything for me. Having said that though, there have been songs Radiohead have done, such as "Let Down" from OK Computer that I didn't particularly like for years, but absolutely love now, so don't take my word for it. The track name "Atoms For Peace" is taken from the motto of the International Atomic Energy Agency, incidentally.

Much of the album continues the musical themes and directions explored in Radiohead tracks such as "Idioteque", "Backdrifts", "The Gloaming" and "Myxamotosis". Halfway through the album you realise how much you are enjoying it, and I certainly didn't want it to end.

Next up is the absolute stand-out "And It Rained All Night", about Yorke's fears of devastating flooding. A fear that may actually happen to Yorke's home town of Oxford eventually due to global warming. Is it any wonder why he campaigns relentlessly for the sake of the planet. The song contains tense keyboards, conveying his fears and those trademark paranoid lyrics.

What really grabs you about the album, though, is Yorke's vocal performance. Vocals are generally left alone and not pushed back in the mix, as in recent Radiohead efforts. This is plainly evident in the album's best track "Harrowdown Hill". In fact, this may actually be one of Thom Yorke's finest moments. The topic of the song , the lyrics, the melody, beats and vocals combine to make this an absolute stormer and it will be the first single. Harrowdown Hill is the place in Oxford where, in 2003, the body of Dr David Kelly was found after an apparent suicide. Kelly was just about to release his findings that there was no justification for Britain to invade Iraq. Many people believe he was either pushed to suicide by the sheer pressure or that he was, in fact, murdered. Here Thom sings, "Can you see me when I'm running........ Away from this......... I can't take the pressure....... No-one cares if you live or die..........". It is both haunting and sad and an obviously angry Yorke unleashes his frustration and fury at Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Labour government. He has been on record saying it is the hardest and angriest song he has ever written finishing with jagged, edgy guitars. It is also worth noting, the song contains an excerpt from "The Gloaming". Click here, if you want to know more about the death of Dr David Kelly.

Yorke has also mentioned that he may play some of the tracks during Radiohead live sets, and has been rehearsing with Jonny Greenwood. I hope one of them is album closer "Cymbal Rush". Starting with trademark blips and bleeps and a hazy keyboard melody, the song slowly develops into a classic Radiohead storm before finishing to an abrupt halt.

Overall, The Eraser is an absolute belter of an album, that does not disappoint. All the classic Thom Yorke traits are present, and even fans of the more conventional Bends-era Radiohead will find plenty to love here.

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