Album Review: Thom Yorke, “The Eraser” (2006)

Call me biased, but I’m seriously starting to fall under the opinion that Radiohead‘s front man, Thom Yorke is a genius.  Of course, there’s all of the stellar Radiohead albums that he’s contributed to (including, of course, my favorite album, In Rainbows), but one can never be too sure where to accredit the genius when a musician is confined to a band.

So, Yorke did the smart thing and ventured out on his own to release a solo album in 2006, titled The Eraser.  The result is honestly, nothing short of brilliance.

Yorke manages to transfer the clever wordplay Radiohead is known for in their songs into his own original music; sounding more like some of the songs from the aforementioned In Rainbows and Radiohead’s sixth studio album, Hail To The Thief.

All electronic, blips and beeps, wailing vocals and amazing lyrics- The Eraser is a magnificent debut album, and would fit in perfectly amongst Radiohead fans’ CD collections.

The disc opens with the title track, and we are immediately greeted to a heavy piano and bass line, soon paired with almost Casio-keyboard like effects in the background.  Yorke enters singing, “Please excuse me, but I have to ask/Are you only being nice because you want something?”  The song goes on this way for the better portion of it; the same plodding bass line backing Yorke’s smooth vocals and exquisite lyrics (“The more you try to erase me/The more/The more/The more that I appear”).  Suddenly, the song segues into an entirely electronic ending, sounding similar to that which you’d expect playing over the credits to a Final Fantasy video game.  An odd technique, indeed, but one that works incredibly well and lays out an exciting and haunting beginning to the album.

Yorke definitely pulled out all the stops in terms of his lyricism on this album.  Black Swan is a midtempo wonder that you’d have a hard time listening to without nodding your head.  Yorke even drops the f-bomb several times in the chorus, as he basically berates a former lover for her treatment of him throughout the whole song (“People get crushed like biscuit crumbs/And laid down in the bed you made/You have tried your best to please everyone/But it just isn’t happening”).  Skip Divided sounds like an extra from In Rainbows, so it’s no wonder why I was immediately drawn to the song.  Yorke sings in his lower register during the chorus, and paired with plodding beat, the song gives off an almost ominous feeling.   This works well with the lyrics (“When you walk in the room everything disappears/When you walk in the room it’s a terrible mess/When you walk in the room I start to melt”), and I must say that I love how raw Yorke’s lyrics are when he is a scorned lover or in the middle of unrequited love.

Thom Yorke

Atoms For Peace is another electronic-heavy, albeit upbeat and cheery number that I find myself listening to on repeat for long periods of time.  First, something MUST be said about Yorke’s falsetto throughout this song, which is quite possibly one of the most beautiful things I’ve heard in a long time.  His vocals float so effortlessly over the music and the overall effect of his voice, paired with the melody,  transport you to a different time and place while listening.

Perhaps my only real criticism of the album is that a few of the songs either tend to blend together, or don’t stand out at all.  Analyse is an up-tempo song that’s fairly nice enough, but not quite catchy enough for repeated listens.  Likewise, Cymbal Rush, the album’s closer, lacks much of anything, besides a blip-heavy melody that definitely sounds like something right out of a video game.  And It Rained All Night seems to be the fan favorite, at least according to users on Last.FM but even after repeated listens, I can’t seem to figure out what’s so great about the song.  The Clock is a frantic little number that sounds like a combination of various songs on the album, but lacks any of the charm that the stronger songs have.

The album winds down with its last stand out track, Harrowdown Hill.  Every time I listen to this song I have a feeling that some rap artist has sampled it, particularly the chorus (“But I’m coming home/I’m coming home/To make it alright/So dry your eyes/We think the same things at the same time/We just can’t do anything about it”), but I have still been unable to place it.  At any rate, I’d like to suggest thatKanye West think about sampling that piece for his next album.  It’ll be the best sample of all time.  Of all time!  Er…right.  Anyway, the song is another musical wonder, effortlessly stretching out the slow bass line and Yorke’s passionate vocals over four minutes.

All in all, The Eraser is an excellent debut album from Thom Yorke.  I’m not sure if Yorke is planning another solo album anytime soon (though he has been releasing a few singles, including a song for the upcoming Twilight: New Moon soundtrack), but even if it meant waiting another few years for the next Radiohead disc,  I’d be the first in line to buy it.

Rating: 5 stars

Track Listing
1. The Eraser
2. Analyse
3. The Clock
4. Black Swan
5. Skip Divided
6. Atoms for Peace
7. And It Rained All Night
8. Harrowdown Hill
9. Cymbal Rush

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