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CD Review: Thom Yorke – The Eraser

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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.

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About Craig Lyndall

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    I’m really looking forward to this album and your review confirms everything I’ve heard so far. It’s got the electronic feel of Kid A, but with much crisper vocals and songwriting. It would’ve been nice though if you talked about some of the individual songs. Your review doesn’t mention a single song title. Just an observation…
    -Glen

  • http://www.magicjunk.com/blog Mark Sahm

    I agree Craig, if you got an advance listen, can you give your RH lovin’ brothers a quick summary of the tracks?

  • http://www.filteringcraig.com FilteringCraig

    To be quite honest, I didn’t want to go track by track because I felt like this was one of those albums that really flowed from beginning to end.

    Track 1, The Eraser, plays with you until the actual beat comes in. You can’t figure out exactly where it is going to go with the piano. The vocals at the beginning and the vocal run in this track are about as great as any Thom Yorke vocal run ever.

    Track 3, Clock, has a really great driving beat. With kind of a chunking, breathing beat box from Yorke in the background. Then Yorke comes in with some really great legato notes. These vocals are some of the only ones on the album that sound “wet” with reverb. This song seems to go into the hypnotic jam, but it never goes so long as to be self-indulgent.

    Track 4, Black Swan sounds like it could be an outtake directly from KidA or Amnesiac. It is one of the only tracks that feels like it really could have been a full blown radiohead track. If it didn’t rely on an eff bomb so heavily, I would have this pegged as a single.

    Track 6, Atoms for Peace, sounds like the music could be The Postal Service. It is a little brighter than the rest of the tracks, and it also has the most impressive vocals on the album, despite what I said about The Eraser. Unlike other material where the artist plays with you and only does the cool thing once, Yorke is willing to revisit the money vocal run that you want to keep hearing.

    Track 9, Cymbal Rush is light on the vocals and heavy on the experimentation. It is chaotic with layers and caucophony, but still somehow retains its beauty.

    How is that?

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Now thats more like it Craig. Now I’ve got a very good idea of what to expect from what you tag as key tracks. This whets my appetite for The Eraser even more so than it already was.

    I just saw Radiohead in Berkeley this past weekend (you can actually find my review here on BC), and they played one of the wildest setlists of the tour…if you don’t believe me, check out what Radiohead fans are saying about it on the message boards at ateaseweb.com

    Thanks for filling in the blanks about The Eraser Craig. Can’t wait.

    -Glen

  • http://www.magicjunk.com/radio Mark Sahm

    Well put, Craig. Thanks! I’m really looking forward to this one now.

  • jim tunstall uk

    I was a touch apprehensive when I read some pre-release chatter about the content being essentially a harsher re-working of some of the themes in “Kid A”, as some of that album can be less than easily accessible, but having now listened to it 5 times since it arrived yesterday I am gaining even more respect for Mr Yorke than I had before. I especially love the clarity of his vocals ( as described rather better in your article), and the rather alarming harsh electronic sound as if a train was heading down a (dark naturally ) tunnel at the climax of “Analyse”. All in all potentially one of the best albums of the year. Jim Tunstall Harrogate UK

  • http://skyguy Dave

    Thom Yorke is the synapsis firing in Radio’s Head. The time signatures and layered beats alone are worth listening to. The vocal on Atoms for Peace is something any listener will dwell on. The lyrics throughout the record are to some degree straight forward depending on the song but stellar on every track. This is what pushing the envelope sounds like.