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The Smudgeless Rub Of A Solid Eraser

You know how most pencils have those little rose-colored erasers at the end? Every once in a while, I come across one of those erasers, and for whatever reason, it doesn't erase for shit. These erasers are rigid and almost waxy; they smear my errors into leaden skid marks around the page, snickering as my mistakes are highlighted, somehow bolder and more permanent than they were before the futile rubbing.

More Head:
  • Confessions Of A Radiohead-Head
  • A good eraser maintains a backbone, never crumbles and remains flexible to your pressure changes. A good eraser jigs playfully over your writing, happily and cleanly removing any proof that you are less than perfect. John Rose knows what I'm talking about.

    Thom Yorke's first "solo" effort, The Eraser, is a jigging album; its charm is its simplicity, and the cleanliness of Yorke's hauntingly sublime voice (a crispness that is sometimes smudged on Radiohead albums, due to the equal talents of each band member). Yorke's hesitation to label The Eraser as a solo album is understandable. Like a television spin-off series, a solo career can imply the failure of a larger work, often marked by bitterness from remaining members of another venture. In this case, though, Radiohead strongly supported Yorke's solo pursuit (guitarist Johnny Greenwood even provides piano for The Eraser's title track), and moreover, the release of Yorke's album coincides with the promising buzz of a seventh Radiohead album.

    Radiohead spent most of June charming North American cities, further enticing the appetites of all us salivating Head-heads, who are now quite accustomed to (although never happy about) waiting several years between new albums. The Eraser is kind of like that one little gift that your mom lets you open on Christmas Eve, in order to sustain your greedy self until the main stash can be torn into the following morning (or in this case, until the next Radiohead album is released, hopefully in 2007).

    yorke_eraser.jpgYorke's album, although mostly categorized as "electronic," is far from the electronic music that pulses and thumps and dry-humps in a nightclub on a Saturday night. Underneath the mellowing electronic beats on The Eraser, there is still a dependence on traditional instruments to drive songs. The layers of each composition serve as a reminder that Yorke actually sat down and composed this work, and didn't just sample beats on his computer and then add words.

    In the great melodramatic tradition of Yorke's work, The Eraser evokes some degree of emotion, even when simplistically beating through the sterility of its genre. The track "Skip Divided" is Thom Yorke at his most straightforward, musically and lyrically speaking:

    When you walk in the room I follow you 'round like a dog
    I'm a dog, I'm a dog, I'm a lapdog
    I'm your lapdog, yeah
    I just need a number and location.

    Here, stripped of his typical loner complexity, Yorke transforms into a creepily blunt and confident version of himself, ready to flap around and dive-bomb your head as he wishes.

    I've had people express to me that some Radiohead music is moody and difficult to stomach at times (I have no idea what these people are talking about). I've even had others tell me that Radiohead music makes them depressed. (Nope, no idea at all.) But like many things - psychotropic substances, for example - Yorke's music is all about the mental approach of the participant. The Eraser is well-paced, even sometimes upbeat, and there is no room for tears or attempted suicide on this album.

    The only place that might inspire eye moisture (in a good way) is the final track, "Cymbal Rush." This track is the most memorable of the nine, led by a simple piano part and the Yorke-ian style of song-layering, as seen on Radiohead songs such as "Fake Plastic Trees," "Exit Music" and "You and Whose Army." All these songs begin with the instrumental bare minimum escorting Yorke's vocals, and then piece-by-piece, blossom into full-fledged affecting anthems of glorious resolve and clarity. If you know what I mean.

    The end of "Cymbal Rush" follows this same climactic effect, kicked into motion by a distant, but approaching drum kit and a caressingly assertive piano that reminds of Radiohead's dreamy "Pyramid Song." This entrancing melody makes way for Yorke's voice, seeming to approach from a distance. He continues to build the song up the octave, getting louder and more passionate the sharper he gets, spinning his vocals in a predictably exciting way, continuously building and warming the cockles of your heart, when, all of a sudden, just as you are about to run out and get another tattoo paying homage to this brilliant man, everything cuts out . . . all that is left is the electronic bleep-bloopy thing that began the song.

    Overall, The Eraser is not Radiohead, but is undoubtedly Thom Yorke. I enjoy every track on his album, but often wonder if that's not because I admittedly worship anything Yorke produces. The guy could armpit-fart a minor scale, and I'd still somehow find the beautiful genius in it. Sure, certain songs on The Eraser are more interesting than others, but even a mediocre Thom Yorke song is better than most of what else is out there.

    If you are like me, a Radiohead devotee who lusts for new music, Thom Yorke fills the void with The Eraser, now three and a half years removed from the band's last official release. Just like a tube of Carmex in a chapping winter wind, The Eraser is soothing and sustaining during this especially trying Radiohead drought. And given the right mindset, it evens makes you jig a little.

    -

    Comments welcome.



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    Posted on September 30, 2006


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