Thom Yorke

Record review

Phases & Stages

Thom Yorke

The Eraser (XL)

Radiohead's energy source is universal, powered between positive and negative extremes. "Anyone Can Play Guitar" defines the Oxford-hatched quintet's 1993 debut, Pablo Honey, yet remains forever eclipsed by piano-bar standard "Creep." Thom Yorke's alternate-reality-jazz-singer status, indie rock's Jimmy Scott, solidifies follow-up The Bends and the crystal blue persuasion of "Fake Plastic Trees," his breathtaking falsetto drowning out even the heavy breathing of "My Iron Lung." The Bends doesn't prepare you for the hardwired angst of OK Computer, Radiohead's guitar-band twilight, just as OK Computer can't prep you for the quivering afterbirth that is 2000's Kid A, the electro-programmed paradigm shift. Both latter albums prime their ghost in the machine's solo debut, The Eraser. Completing the musical arc begun with Kid A, Yorke's prize platter also standardizes his alienation with the regenerated confidence of Hail to the Thief, its title a summation of personal movement forward with no regard for personnel of the past. The Eraser is us. The treated piano that opens its synthetic stew of melody, electronic cymbals poking through like a mound of silt at low tide, find the title track's android musicality scuttling away from Yorke's all-too-human vulnerability ("the more you tried to erase me ..."). That rhythmic propulsion pushes The Eraser forward like data through electronic memory, Radiohead's trademark bell tones ringing in the rest. Even when it's little more than a blip and a bassline ("Atoms for Peace"), it bores into you like a heart stent. The pulsing, scatting, pity-pat of "The Clock" ("time is running out for us") strobes Yorke's otherworldly moans in haunted freeze-frame. Segued into the trip-hop stare of "Black Swan" ("this is fucked up, fucked up"), with its Tubular Bells break, "The Clock" is the bottom line: Love is an eternal series of blind spots (brought on, perhaps, by bad pot). Ticktock and "Black" top do the sci-fi shake on "And It Rained All Night," while "Harrowdown Hill" is a clear-focus emotional entreaty, with its Edge-y end riff and evocation of Kid A's "Everything in Its Right Place." There are Amnesiac sketches ("Skip Divided," closer "Cymbal Rush"), and though The Eraser isn't Blade Runner – more like A Scanner Darkly – it's a vital addition to a bibliography that, even with new, unrecorded Radiohead Strum ("Nude") und Drang ("Bangers 'n' Mash"), no one can erase.

***.5

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