It's hard to be objective about the solo work of a brilliant musician like Thom Yorke, who is part of the equally brilliant band Radiohead. It's even harder when you can hear echoes of the band's "sound" going through the solo work.
But that doesn't seem to be a problem with Yorke's solo debut, "The Eraser." Laced with delicate electronica, slow keyboard and Yorke's soulful voice, this is a solo debut that shines both as an individual album, and as a side project to his band. It's a complex, seductive piece of work, and bodes well for future solo work from Yorke.
It opens with a halting piano solo and subtle electronic beats that build up to a quiet, soaring melody. Then Yorke murmurs, "Please excuse me but I got to ask/Are you only being nice/Because you want something/My fairy tale arrow pierces/Be careful how you respond /'Cause you'd not end up in this song ...."
But the meditative sound changes with the dancey, sparkling electronica of "Analyse" (despite the downer songwriting) and the guitar-driven, eerie sound of "The Clock." Yorke fills the songs with different bits of experimentation -- the ominous spoken-word song, Aphex Twin-style electronica, eerie shimmering keyboard balladry, and finishing off with the delicate, enchanting "Cymbal Rush."
There are only nine songs on "The Eraser." But Yorke crams each one with creativity, haunting sounds and beautiful songwriting, until there's no room left. Many of the songs vaguely resemble Radiohead's last few albums, with the heavy reliance on electronica. But the sound is uniquely Yorke's.
Yorke loads down "Eraser" with plenty of atmosphere -- menacing, ominous, dreamy and even upbeat. "Skip Divided" is somewhat weaker than the other songs, but the remaining songs make up for that. They're full of electronic soundscapes, shimmering keyboards and even a bit of guitar and bass, but the heart of each song lies in the electronic beats and shimmers. It's like wandering through a cave of ice and sunlight.
Yorke's distinctive voice stands out in the eerie "Atoms for Peace," where he sounds confident and slightly off-key. But in other songs like "It Rained All Night," he lets his voice blend in with the walls of electronica, until it's drowned out. And the lyrics fit him well, full of drowned cities, tormented people and wishing wells.
Thom Yorke created a near-masterpiece with "The Eraser," with its eerie electronica and beautiful songwriting. Definitely a keeper.