Posts Tagged ‘the eraser’

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Off This Century – My Favorite Albums of 2000-2009

December 25, 2009
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Thom Yorke – The Eraser

July 12, 2006

Thom Yorke’s first solo album is very much a broken blessing. It is good, yes, and it actually pretty close to the kind of thing I was expecting. It is said that one of the main themes of The Eraser is to forget the past and to put things behind you that you care not to remember anymore. I can fully relate to this issue, and I often end up punching myself for things that I did even when I was a little kid, or even over things that haven’t happened. So how do I deal with it? I hold my breath and move on. Thom Yorke seems as stressed a person as any, and I’m assuming that he does the same thing, but when you have a creative drive for creating music, why not utilize this medium to help the problem? The disk by no means completely quenches my thirst for more Radiohead material because it is not like Radiohead at all, but in the context that this is at least written by the key player in the Radiohead experience, it is very pleasing for whatever reason.

Radiohead has sort of been in limbo (yeah, whatever.) since Hail To The Theif came out. That may have been Radioheads most diverse and varied album. When you try all sorts of things at once, where do you go next? Well, it’s not that this is too much of a journey off of Radioheads work. It is being released in the off month of Radioheads tour where they are test driving new material for release. But that doesn’t stop the fact that there hasn’t been a Radiohead album since 2003. Fans are getting jittery, considering the band has never had a three year break before. So this is a good treat, deffinitely. And the really special thing about this album is that it’s clearly nothing that could have been released in the context of Radiohead. It is very electronic and dreary and quite honestly doesn’t have material that can be played with a full band.

It’s a record to loose yourself in. I’m sure it was sort of that way to make too, as most of the samples and effects are simple and obviously synthetic. It is clear that effort went into making this album, but not that much. What I have gathered is that Thom Yorke had begun to learn how to work with his computer much more on making music, and the album is more of a result of many ideas that were put together or expanded on. In fact, parts of the title track aren’t even his ideas. The piano sample was done by Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead a few years ago, and I can almost picture Thom Yorke tapping a beat to go along with the tune created by the sample somewhere near his laptop. And then perhaps him looking at his laptop and understanding what he should do.

Like Thom himself says, “solo album” makes it seem like he was more detatched from the band than he was when he was writing it, and “side project” almost makes it seem too miniscule. But to some extent, this is a minor release. Yes, it has been getting the attension as if it was a major label album, and almost seems like it is in some ways. But it is very much a side project. At least I think it is. It is what Mr. Yorke completed in his spare time, and while the music is very good, it need not be too harshly critiqued, because the mans work is clearly most concentrated on Radiohead. So this album is more of a treat than anything. But what a treat it is. Just as the band starts to drift back toward guitar driven pop, this is released on the exact opposite of that spectrum.

But the album is anything but refreshing. It’s themes are varied, mostly because they are various ideas pooled into an album. Sometimes harsh memorys are discussed. Other times, releationships. And there are even some important current events to be heard in the lyrics, involving the war on Iraq and the environment. But then again, it is also nice to hear a track that is just about rain. A lot of what this album shows us is that Thom Yorke is not exactly the only necessary member of Radiohead, and that the rest of the band is what makes ideas that everyone has come out in a more refined way. Of course, ideas are flowing from Thom constantly, but not all ideas are good for the band. So this is a collection of the ideas of Thom Yorke exclusively that are not able to be covered elsewhere. If the album had a mouth, it would surely tell the listener that these are some issues that need to be gotten out of the way so that other more important things can progress. This is essentially Thom Yorke putting all of his cards out on the table and getting personal. And his out-in-front vocals are great for that kind of creative environment.

If you are a curious Radiohead fan who wonders if this would be for you, I have a feeling it would. Radiohead fans are wired in a certain way so that they are very openminded. A majority of the bands songs are nothing like anything else the band has made. So these people ended up being pleasently surprised in a myriad of ways when Hail To The Thief came out. By that point, the band had traversed the musical globe, so to say. They had done the guitar pop, the electronic, and everything in between. And a lot of other branching styles too. The Eraser is not an unpredictable listen like Hail To The Thief was, but it plays more in a way that the listener will not be suprised (but still will be amazed) by what comes next.

The sound of the album is very melancholy and confusing. And very negative in many ways, too. The writer is skilled enough to know that the listener does not want pessimism necessarilly, but more a vague summary of what is going on at the moment. All hope is not lost, but there is a point where things need to be fixed. But when you don’t think about all this jargon so much, the songs are very individual and enjoyable, if not a little unnerving. Analyse is what you would think to hear during that impossible math test you took in high school that caught you way off guard. Atoms For Peace is what the introverted loner hears when he decides to turn his life around. Cymbal Rush is what the prisoner hears in his last moments. It can all be very disturbing, but there is a certain degree of beauty even in the more sad parts of the album. But there are more straightforward tracks too. Harrowdown Hill, the albums first single, is a knock-out. Fans will come to understand and love the vocals immediately. Black Swan is a funky toe-tapper that speaks of failure. It is a little difficult to tell who “you” is in this song, but the simplistic “this is ****ed up” is a call that even non-fans will understand. And my personal favorite, And It Rained All Night, has the vocalist almost spelling out for you what is trying to be relayed, and that is a comfortable break from the pretty open-endedness of the typical Radiohead song.

The Eraser is not to be mistaken for a replacement for a Radiohead album. In fact, it is nowhere close to the quality of a Radiohead album, but no one was expecting it to be. It’s a quickie, it’s enjoyable, and it is a good way to tide over fans until the real prize is recieved. It’s not perfect or even a great piece of work, though it is consistant in quality. The bottom line is, this is the result of Thom Yorke taking bits, pieces, leftovers, and even trash and sculpting it into something beautiful. And if this is where Thoms mind goes when it’s not on schedule, I’m not worried at all about his future in songwriting.