I’ve always been a bit careful when buying a new Radiohead album and I’m not a die-hard fan. A bit like a parent showing preferential treatment to their first-born The Bends had always been close to my heart. Then OK computer popped out and I felt happy that both could bring me so much joy. Then by the time Kid A, Amnesiac (twins) and Hail to the Thief were added to the brood I was rushing around making sure each had brushed their teeth and not forgot their packed lunch giving them my full and undivided attention.
So it was quite a relief to hear that Thom Yorke’s solo release would be largely made out of odds and sods from previous Radiohead outings. Nigel Godrich as well as artwork once again by Stanley Donwood, which is definitely keeping things well and truly in the family, would again produce it. But wouldn’t this mean it would just sound like the dregs left out to fester from earlier Radiohead recordings? Or is this just Thom Yorke tidying up sample files from his laptop? Maybe there’s some truth in the title?
Straight away I was put at ease as the title track stumbled in. Echoes of The Pyramid Song (Amnesiac) but with a severe new haircut made me feel at home and Yorke’s familiar cat-like vocals were like a phone call from an old friend. The Piano theme continues as Analyse skipped in to change the mood just as quickly as ‘The Clocks’, a Low Fi ditty with a discreet punch of funky bass. Apparently there’s a sample from the Radiohead hard drive as early as 2000 in Black Swan and Yorke displays some of his dark lyrical story telling for you to make your own mind up on. Skip Divided strips the beat right down to the bare essentials as Yorke gets more intrinsic with your senses and Atoms For Peace’s lyrics such as ‘Peel all of your layers off I want to eat you’re artichoke heart’ begin to pull you in deeper. By now you are putty In Thom’s hands as you find yourself at the foot of one of the stand out tracks – And It Rained All Night which refers to the beauty of scarily big rain showers Yorke experienced In New York. The beat mashed up from ‘The Gloaming’ (Hail To The Thief) reflects the relentlessness of this whole affair he finds himself inviting you to watch with him in your mind. We then roll Into Harrowdown Hill, which was named after the location of Dr David Kelly’s suicide. Yorke’s murky lyrics coupled with a spattering backbeat paint a compelling picture that makes you feel like there is something not quite right as questions are posed; ‘Did I fall or was I pushed?’ Finally we end at Cymbal Rush, a very Radiohead sounding track put together with a riff that had again been floating around for a while, wrapping up the whole album and giving you time to reflect on the experience.
But I reckon this has always been the formula from the outset, There’s optimism mixed with distress, anticipation with dullness, and all carefully kneaded into a doughy mass of old and new sounds, that still hit the same spots as those other fine Radiohead concoctions.
It’s also a great precursor for things to come. Maybe this is Yorke’s way of laying things to rest for something exceptional when he’s back with the boys later this year.
Its definitely not the cut and paste album I was dreading and there’s nothing new here. It’s not an Instant classic but that’s probably a good thing. The personal touch from Yorke’s back pocket ‘o’ riffs ‘n’ samples ensures that this Radiohead sounding album Is just that little bit more special. But it will have to sleep on the couch for now until we get bunk beds for the others.
The Eraser (2006)
Genre: Rock, Post-Rock
Record Label: XL Recordings