It’s difficult to explain the enjoyment to be acquired from The Eraser. Skittish beats set up an infrastructure that awkwardly engages with icy synths, stirring vocals, and robotic patterns, making for a fairly erratic experience. Although the cold nature of the album will push listeners away, its fidgety personality suits it. ‘There’s no time to analyse,’ Yorke sings on the wonderful “Analyse”, and though it’s clear he’s singing about the immediate fear of climate change, the words ring true for The Eraser itself; there’s very little space for you to reflect on the experience. Softer moments do gradually arrive, initially in the form of “Atoms For Peace”, a song dominated by stunning falsettos that showcases the frankly outrageous control of Yorke’s voice, and later again with “Cymbal Rush” to end proceedings in the most dramatically sad way imaginable. When The Eraser soars, it’s an utterly wonderful listen, trapping you within a frosty soundscape as enticing as it is dismal. It exemplifies the gloomy characteristic that often gets attributed to Radiohead, whilst proving exactly why this sombre tone suits them down to the ground. If it wasn’t for the clumsy shuffle of “Skip Divided” that awkwardly sits between the two album sides, it would be one of the finest albums of its kind. As it is, The Eraser is a wonderful listen that comes with some baggage. It’s not on the level of OK Computer, In Rainbows, or Kid A—in fact, it doesn’t even attempt to stand on the same pedestal—but remains a significant entry in the Radiohead timeline. If you’re able to handle its intensity, it’s actually a very beautiful record.8 10
Favourite tracks // Analyse
In this latest episode of ‘Fred doesn’t get it,’ I’m not entirely sure what to make of The Eraser. When listening to it one voice in my head mumbles approvingly at having more Thom Yorke to listen to, whilst another, much louder voice gently suggests my time would be better spent just listening to some Radiohead. This is the crux of my problem with Yorke’s solo debut, mild bouts of schizophrenia aside. I think it showcases his talents as an ingredient in a larger creative process far more than it does a compelling solo artist at work. There is certainly quality on show in The Eraser, but it does fluctuate—from dreary to cerebral and back again. The record’s combination of typically elegant Yorke vocals with a computer glitch ambience, rather than proving seductive, tends to leave me yearning for the input of Greenwood, Selway and the like. The pieces are there, but they’re not enough on their own. Even high-water marks like “Black Swan and “Analyse”, pretty as they are, listen like a tease. The Eraser is an interesting peek behind the Radiohead curtain in that regard. It’s nice to hear what everyone’s bringing to the table. Apparently in Yorke’s case it’s a gorgeous voice, burrowing lyrics, and an off-kilter sound which invites the Johnny Greenwood’s of the world to say, ‘It’s all right, Thom, we’ll take it from here.’6 10
Favourite tracks // Black Swan
It certainly doesn’t feel like a decade since the release of Thom Yorke’s debut solo album, but returning to it has been enjoyable. From the eponymous opener, the sound of The Eraser is immediately distinctive from anything that came before or after it from Radiohead, focussing on rigidly robotic yet intricate beats throughout and a bias towards electronic instrumentation. It provides a restrained and sterile aesthetic, only compounded by the sombre tone across most of the tracklist. This doesn’t necessarily detract or add to the album overall, but it does make it harder to be emotive about it, and with such a sway towards intricate electronica and sobering lyrics this task is only made harder. Thom’s vocals glide over the top, often providing relief or contrast from the sterility, and cover themes that are clearly very close to his heart. Anxiety, rejection, and anger all play a big part, making for a release that even Radiohead fans may balk at, but for those that don’t, there’s definitely a good quality of music here. If The Eraser does nothing else, it gives you what you’d expect from Yorke. Anyone that has followed him closely will know of his love for bringing electronics into his music and many will know him for his voice, positively or otherwise. For his debut solo album, this mix came right to the forefront, and there’s certainly a lot to be liked here. I’m unsure as to what I’d want in order to enjoy this album more, but at times it just feels too sterile to love, which isn’t something that I feel can be ‘fixed.’ A decent, sombre listen.7 10
Favourite tracks // Analyse
Guest Writer // Thomas Ashby
With Radiohead being one of my favourite bands still touring today, Thom Yorke is a writer that has had a huge influence on the way that I appreciate, create, and perform music. From seeing his signature expressive dancing live at Victoria Park on their tour of In Rainbows, one thing that anyone should be able to appreciate is his integrity, diversity, and reluctance to conform. With that, ten years after its release, I have been given the chance to vent my appreciate for his first solo project; The Eraser.
From the strong, syncopated, electronic introduction in the opening title track, The Eraser absorbs you inside Thom Yorke’s world. One which carries his prolific, chilling and unusually enchanting melodies, illustrating his admirable range. Sparse instrumentation creates a landscape of unusually pleasing harmonies connected through erratic electronic percussion (at times fused with scatty vocal loops). All of this is told with quirky imagery that breathe a fresh air of light to the saturated cliches and common phrases heard from various other writers. One of Thom’s greatest strengths in his songwriting is the openness for interpretation in which the listener can relate these lyrics with several contexts, creating a unique meaning for each listener. A man that surely needs to prove nothing at the point of this creation, has painted an album that from an outside perspective may appear melancholy but through an admirer’s eyes is inspiring, provocative and a highly enjoyable individual experience.