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Thom Yorke - The Eraser




Radiohead's enigmatic singer has done the seemingly inevitable and released his first solo album. Leaving the complicated instrumental arrangements behind, Yorke has instead created a stripped-back beats-driven debut release. Perhaps as you'd expect, the result is a consistent ensemble of modern paranoid musings.

  

The Eraser's charm lies in Yorke's signature vocal. Early during the production of the album, producer and long-time Radiohead collaborator Nigel Godrich put his foot down. Godrich agreed to work with Yorke in making his debut release, as long as Yorke's vocal was not butchered with unnecessary effects and reverb. The result is an unusually intimate listening experience.

  

The album opens with the climatic title track, which slowly evolves from a simple piano sample and minimalist beats, into a chorus of Yorke's layered vocals. The wall of sound is an excellent introduction to the headspace of the album. It moves easily into the more layered Analyse. Primarily a sullen piano-based track, the song is decorated with percussive flourishes and modest synths.

  

The Clock is a busy arrangement of beats and more basic synths. Unfortunately, despite some interesting instrumentation early on, the song is lost on me. At the risk of offending Dwarf readers, I have to write it off as musical masturbation. Yorke is the only one getting anything out of it, and to be honest, his whining suggests to me he mightn't be enjoying it as much as he'd wish. To be fair, the same has often been said of my album reviews so…

  

Black Swan is the first clear introduction of guitar on The Eraser. Fittingly, it is also the first introduction of some colourful rock and roll language; the chorus matter-of-factly declaring "This is fucked up, fucked up". Skip Divided melts together curious percussive samples and vocal nonsense. While Yorke's main vocal relieves the boredom, it is at this point that I begin to check how many songs The Eraser has.

  

The last few tracks continue the same trend with the exception being Harrowdown Hill. While fundamentally built on the same principles of electronic percussion and flooding synths, the vocals are far more engaging. Closing track Cymbal Rush is made up of analogue beats and more synth/piano harmonising progressions. The album ends with the song stripping back to the bare beats with which the closing track began.

  

Orthodox Radiohead fans will no doubt defend The Eraser as a creative masterpiece that is beyond my grasp, and they may well be right. That said, orthodox Radiohead fans tend to dress poorly and have little luck with the ladies, so I'm gonna take my chances. There are elements of The Eraser that are exciting, beautiful and inspiring. Yorke's mostly unaffected vocal is a rare delight and is a definite highlight. Unfortunately for me, Yorke's introspective temperament plays too much of a role in determining the creative path of the album, and the result is a mostly monotonous release.

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