red lights


Exorcizing his electro-demons

Thom Yorke - The Eraser
(XL Recordings)
3 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: July 22, 2006
Thom Yorke

Review by Tony Bonyata

From the very onset of Thom Yorke's first solo effort, The Eraser, where a stuttering piano line accentuates a mechanical canned beat on the opening title track, it sounds as if the Radiohead frontman may be distancing himself from his full-time band, while at the same time revisiting some of the band's more experimental material. The one thing that is also still intact from his work with Radiohead (at least on that same song) is the singer's haunting vocals and sad, yet beautiful melody.

But while the opening track is extremely promising, much of the remainder of this record doesn't manage to offer much more from an artist of whom so much is expected. Of course, the obvious comparisons to Radiohead - certainly one of the most important rock acts of the last two decades - doesn't make matters any easier. Much of the electro musings that fester throughout are most reminiscent of Radiohead's foray into a new world of sonic ambience and disorienting electronics as explored on their 2000 Kid A album. But whereas that album had a wide-eyed sense of adventure and experimentation that teetered towards the dangerous, much of Yorke's solo material sounds more like he's pulling from a formula than forging ahead into new terrain. While the blips and bleeps bounce back and forth like an Atari ping-pong ball, much of the beautiful melodies that were buried layers beneath the majestic soundscapes of both Kid A and Radiohead's follow-up album Amnesiac, are either absent here or not fully realized.

But to be fair, the comparisons to Radiohead should be checked at the door and entry to this record should be judged on its own merits. And there are quite a few of these merits present here. From the rubbery beat that percolates behind the eerie monochromatic keys and Yorke's angelic vocal warblings on "Atoms for Peace" to the shadowy groove of "Black Swan" and the decidedly more introspective number "Analyze" there are still brief flashes of greatness - even if they're quite often cloaked in darkness and a brooding sense of despair.

Solo records and side projects, while usually not as engaging as the main act's best material, are often a necessary tool to expand the creativity and / or focus within a band. And with Thom Yorke exorcizing some of the demons that are still apparently haunting him from his Kid A / Amnesiac days, then this can only be a positive thing when he returns to his day job.

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