While trying hard to make this review strictly about Thom Yorke and his solo album, I can’t help but digress. I really liked OK Computer. That was the moment when the corner was being turned for the band, from strictly guitar and drums rock into more extreme avenues. Kid A and eventually Amnesic saw the band wander off into a dark, musical forest that freaked some people out. And it had people asking, where are they going?
Radiohead-less, Yorke answers that question with The Eraser. It is forty-one minutes of blissful, moving, lonely music that begins to put some of the band’s more recent material into perspective.
On The Eraser, Yorke stays strictly with the electronic clicks and beeps that made Amnesiac so difficult to get into, but this time around the songs are more clearly defined and seamless. The songs are simple in comparison to recent Radiohead efforts, as though great care was taken to make sure things remained uncluttered. Songs like Harrowdown Hill still twitch with an Ideoteque unease, while the albums opener, and arguably best song, The Eraser, follows a light piano line and simple back beat. Everything flows smoothly, from moods to thoughts and emotions.
Like much of Yorke’s previous work, the album’s lyrical themes center are isolation in an overly-connected world. Here Yorke doesn’t appear to be fighting the inevitable. His voice, typically like an angel-child throwing a tantrum, is subdued. That isn’t to say lyrically Yorke has lost any venom. In the opener, Yorke sings “The more you try to erase me, the more that I appear.” But as taunting as such phrases can be (and is, in the cases of one of Radiohead’s best unknown songs, Talk Show Host, where Yorke is at his most brazen) it’s a seemingly resigned proclamation; try whatever you want, but this is all out of your control.
You can’t help but wonder what lead to the albums creation. For whatever reason, this album is released separate from Radiohead, Possibly, that is part of the loneliness felt between the lines of these nine songs. Leaked tracks of recent Radiohead material seem to remain in a similar vein, though the band never ceases to surprise. I still wonder about the direction of such as influential group of musicians and especially about their leader. For a while, I figured the fame and pressure got him, and that he wandered off into an experimental world and would never return to the stunning music we all know he can create. But The Eraser proves he hasn’t forgotten. Thom Yorke never lost his way, he just took the road less traveled.