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Thom Yorke - The Eraser

For almost 15 years now, Thom Yorke has been the siren singing in the shipwreck… he is not, it seems, a happy chappy…

Published on August 21st 2006.

Thom Yorke - The Eraser

“Time is running out”, “We’re accidents waiting to happen”, “I can see death’s beady eyes”, “This is fucked up, fucked up…” For almost 15 years now, Thom Yorke has been the siren singing in the shipwreck… he is not, it seems, a happy chappy.

But wait, what’s that? You already knew? Of course you did, but still, for those who weren’t entirely convinced, we have a nine-tracked collection of dark, unsettling electronica, malevolent synths, cryptic, hopeless and beautiful songs; otherwise known as The Easer.

You may also be aware that, somewhere between 1997 and 2000, Radiohead imploded; tired of touring, tired of media attention, tired of each other, tired of being labelled the ‘best band in the world’, the ‘head, (spearheaded mostly by Yorke), decided to pull up and make an announcement: “Would passengers hoping for another ‘Creep’, ‘High and Dry’, or ‘Just’ please exit the vehicle.” The Oxford boys then headed on blindly, with their usual un-ease, toward Kid A. The result was one that confounded as many as it compelled, an album that looms large in their legend, and possibly their finest achievement; it was dark, ambient, unsettling, cryptic and doom-laden, hopeless and beautiful - sound familiar?

Despite Radiohead’s exodus to darker territory, the people who got off at OK Computer were still waiting, albeit impatiently, for Radiohead to return and pick them up, all things forgiven. Except Radiohead, stubbornly yet correctly, refused to turn around. Driving on until 2006 where Messrs Yorke, Greenwood, Greenwood, Selway and O’Brien, working hard on their 7th album, now argue over who gets to drive.

With The Eraser (Thom’s album, that: ‘couldn’t have been done without the support and belief of Radiohead’) seems to let everyone know who steered Radiohead to Autechre-ville in the first place.

No surprises, then, that The Eraser sounds exactly like you’d think it would. It will again enrage some and elate others. It seems that Thom, gifted with the knack for downbeat melody and a voice that could make even the most stoic weep like a baby, too often locks his songs beneath a barrage of delirious bleeps, ticks and blips; where Kid A sounded majestic and atmospheric with its electronics, The Eraser often sounds small and insignificant.

Album closer Cymbal Rush sees Yorke building steadily into a crescendo, but then suffocates himself in a bubble-wrapped laptop gurgle. As with most post-Bends Radiohead, repeat listenings reward greatly; the tight, folded songs seem to unravel themselves with each listen, revealing depths, anger and to-the-point-ness that had been lacking. When Thom drops the masquerading and gives the simple home-truths, it’s stand to attention arm-hair time; album highlights: Black Swan: “This is fucked up… fucked up.”, The Easer; “I never gave you any encouragement… and it’s doing me in.” and Harrowdown Hill; “We think the same things at the same time, we just can’t do anything about it.” – Thom displays more emotion in those lines than a million electronic drum loops ever could.

Where there are hits with The Eraser, and Atoms for Peace which is another gem, there are also misses, Skip Divided being the biggest; Thom almost rapping the lines: “Like a dog, like a dog, like a lapdog, I’m your lapdog, yeah.” – doesn’t exactly ring true. The previously mentioned Harrowdown Hill is The Eraser’s most pertinent moment, named after the stretch of woods where the body of Dr. David Kelly, the Iraq WMD Inspector, was found following his suicide. Yorke, surrounded with paranoid electronic bleeping and mournful synths, haunts: “Did I fall, or was I pushed? Where’s the blood? In the Harrowdown Hill, that’s where I am…lying down.”

Those hoping for a Thom Yorke solo album (that according to Thom, isn’t) to exhibit some of his more stand alone-ish / dazzling live efforts (Like Spinning Plates or True Love Waits) or those hoping to be given an indication of where Radiohead’s pending 7th album would sound like… may be disappointed. But for those willing to free themselves of the parable that surrounds Yorke, then The Eraser may just be a melancholy slice of electro-glitched genius.

Stephen Fairbanks

The Eraser
Label: XL
Tracks: 9
Year: 2006

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