Thom Yorke – The Eraser (2006): Review

yorke

Produced by Nigel Godrich
Label – XL

For Thom, artistic complexity has been the necessary currency by which he has built his career. His standing in alternative rock has been one of ever changing wizardry as he leads loyal fans down the musical equivalent to inaccessible paths to reach the lush orchard at the end of the journey. “The Eraser”, Yorke’s debut solo album is as oddly skewiff as one would expect, highlighted by the mild drama’s that surrounded its release. Firstly, the singer refused to promote the record, tempting an assumption that this was an intermediate side project just filling a gap whilst Jonny and the rest of his band recharged their collective batteries. Secondly, following a terse, grumpy email from his website, the insistence was that anyone that presumed “The Eraser” a solo project were incorrect and in his words, Radiohead were “alive and well”. Thirdly, the record bore an incredible similarity with “Kid A”, and on further investigation, some of the cut and paste samples were lifted directly from the original sessions, lending one to think that Yorke was suffering creative difficulty in accumulating some original material.

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Overall, “The Eraser” is a desolate album packed with gloomy soundscapes of twitchy electronic rhythms, and draws obvious similarities to early 90s luminaries such as Aphex Twin and Autechre. The sampled swirling piano and synth melodies, allied with Yorke’s ghostly whine, whisper or whimper make for at times emotionless content. There are no guitars until four tracks in (“Black Swan”), which was a leftover from “Kid A”. The deep swell of anger from the outstanding “Harrowdown Hill” comes as a welcome surprise. The song describes the alleged suicide of Ministry of Defence employee David Kelly, who “carried the can” for speaking to the media and categorically stating the dossier that sent the U.K. to war with Iraq was exaggerated and that the nuclear capability was fabricated. Kelly’s body was found beneath a tree near his home, leading to Yorke’s outburst of emotion and an honest description of a tragedy that got lost in the lead up to war. Lyrically, the rest of the album is pretty ambiguous, and the lack of information from the artist leads one to have to reach for probable motives and descriptions behind the songs. Yorke is still a capable constructor and “Black Swan”, “And It Rained All Night”, and the “Analyse” match anything from his band’s back catalogue.

However, it’s excellent in parts, sketchy and rhythmically unoriginal elsewhere, partly filling a gap until the arrival of the next Radiohead long player.

6/10

Track Listing
1. “The Eraser” 4:55
2. “Analyse” 4:02
3. “The Clock” 4:13
4. “Black Swan” 4:49
5. “Skip Divided” 3:35
6. “Atoms for Peace” 5:13
7. “And It Rained All Night” 4:15
8. “Harrowdown Hill” 4:38
9. “Cymbal Rush” 5:15

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