When I first caught wind of the news that Radiohead's frontman Thom Yorke was putting out a solo album, I am sure that many of you had similar thoughts running through your head. Can Yorke actually put together a coherent album of songs, or will he go off the electronica deep end and create a collage of bleeps and bloops in the vein of Squarepusher and Auctechre? As a huge fan of Radiohead, leaning towards an obsession, I was relieved when I heard the first seconds of the opening/title track. The Eraser is a beautifully crafted song-based album that will please any followers of Mr. Yorke.
"The Eraser" opens up this Nigel Godrich-produced album with repeated piano chords over an "Idioteque" flavored beat. When the song segues into the chorus, filled with layers of Thom's vocal harmonies, I am reminded how damn talented of a vocalist he is. It seems that Yorke has finally found that perfect balance of rock/pop and electronic experimentation that supports his music rather than weighing it down. The piano continues on "Analyse," with a chord progression remarkably similar to a sped up "Like Spinning Plates." Several songs on this album do come across as Amnesiac and Kid A b-sides, not that there is anything wrong with that whatsoever.
If you've ever had the desire to hear Yorke do some human beat boxing, "The Clock" is what you've been waiting for. It is meshed with the pitter-patter of the electronic drums for a really cool, organic sounding beat. The driving rhythm and dark melodies give way to a crunchy guitar part, again showing Nigel Godrich's amazing ability to construct such incredible sonic textures. "Black Swan" features a guitar line slightly reminiscent to "I Might Be Wrong" mashed with a bit of a hip hop beat.
"Skip Divided" lets Yorke stretch his creative legs a bit, giving us one of the most experimental tracks on The Eraser. The relatively simple beat is given added substance by the distorted manipulation of him drawing a breath. This is followed by one of my favorites off the album, "Atoms For Peace." Crackles and pops form rolling beats, with nothing more than a very simple synth line and Yorke's vocals. The simplicity of the song allows Yorke to put the spotlight on his acrobatic vocals, softly leaping into his upper octaves.
The minimalism of the previous two songs is shattered by "And It Rained All Night," springing back into the darkness that comprises so much of this record. It is one of the most accessible songs on the album being about as close to a rock tune as you'll get on The Eraser. Going out with an electronica bang, Yorke concludes his debut solo album with "Cymbal Rush." Halfway through he adds some angelic backing harmonies for just a moment, then picks up the pace by tossing in a steady beat while singing in falsetto. It is a beautiful way to end the album.
I am sure that many critics and music snobs will casually listen to this album, dismissing it as nothing more than a collection of Radiohead outtakes. Sure the songs occasionally have some Radiohead similarities, but this IS a Thom Yorke album, so shouldn't that be a little expected? The Eraser allows Yorke and Godrich to dabble a bit more in electronica, which results in some breathtaking moments. As a longtime fan of all things Radiohead, Yorke has still yet to disappoint.