I have long considered Thom Yorke to be an indie rock diva, of sorts. I know it has been a while now since Radiohead became one of the biggest bands on the planet, but before that, when he was plucking out the notes to "Fake Plastic Trees," or "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" on The Bends.
The Bends is where it happened. After Pablo Honey and the international smash-itudes that followed the band's song "Creep," they were just like any other one-hit wonder. But they didn't stop. Radiohead came back and reinvented themselves with The Bends two years later. And that is when I started to think of Thom Yorke as an indie rock diva.
He is a tiny figure of a man, but he has a hugeness that comes from his voice. He slinks in and out of songs with timid little phrases before losing himself in the various emotions he owns onstage while playing. With his eyes closed and his head lurching forward, his cock-sure pose replaces the timidity that seems more his character we all like to try and guess from the outside.
It is this confluence of opposite forces. One force indie rock with his awkward, atypical, coolness, and yet his ability to have his voice soar above the world whenever he steps in front of a microphone, as if he is some geeky siren stopping the beatings of indie rockers by jocks all over the world by pulling them away with his voice.
And now, as if he was listening to my inner thoughts, Thom Yorke has released a solo record that is about as indie as indie could possibly be. It is raw. It is electronic and gives you the feeling Yorke really did all the work building these songs from the ground up. At the same time, the songs are recognizable as the types of seeds that could have been brought to Radiohead as part of the writing process of a new album. And further still, these seeds have been advanced to the point they give us this beautiful poppy testament to the creativity of a guy whose talent betrays the indie abrasiveness with which he seems to want to operate.
Enough about the man. Thom Yorke's solo album, The Eraser, is a must-listen for almost any music fan. This album is huge in its smallness. Beautiful in its ugliness. Dark in its brightness. This album is a work of opposition just like I dream Thom Yorke to be as an indie kid with a huge voice and one of the world's biggest bands.
Within The Eraser, we have all the blips and beeps that have come to define at least a part of Radiohead's career, and yet we have some of the cleanest vocals Thom Yorke has ever recorded. The reverb is low, if present at all. The multi-tracks are used for harmonies, but not doubles. Hearing Yorke move in and out of falsettos without the frosty shield of studio layers is intriguing, and in this case it works.
The songs are cohesive, seemingly working for the same goal from beginning to end. And The Eraser is more than just a supplement to your Radiohead catalogue. I can guarantee that it will become an integral part of your collection.
And in the end, Thom Yorke proves just how indie he is with The Eraser, because he is reminding us once again that he didn't follow us. We followed him.