Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke has definitely proved himself as a solo musician, after the release of the moody-computer "Eraser."
He's not quite as brilliant in "Spitting Feathers," with five B-sides scattered on various singles, and the music videos for his hit single "Harrowdown Hill." But remember: even B-level Thom Yorke is better than average, and this little EP has the same haunted, eerie feeling as his album.
The first song "Drunkk Machine" lives up to its name: a sort of drowsier, slurred song full of weird noises, crackling and sharp beats. Then it builds in intensity like a haunted house imploding on itself. It's followed by the softer, trippier beats of "Rat's Nest," only to switch to "Jetstream." Very frantic, claustrophobic and skittery, with Yorke sounding as if he's on the edge of a nervous breakdown.
We're then given the extended mix of "Harrowdown Hill," which expands the melancholy political ballad into a sprawling, solemn melody with some sharp beats. And finally there's "Iluvya," which is a sputtering, wild little song full of staccato synth and blurred voices say "I luuuuhuvvv YYAAAAA..." Very Aphex Twinnish.
Then we have the music video -- hoo boy. The political themes of "Harrowdown Hill" are even more explicit in the video, which has blurred, fast-moving images of political marches, upraised hands, angry cops, and a hawk swooping through it all. It climaxes with the sight of a seemingly dead Yorke plunging into the water, and slowly sinking. (Contrary to advertising, the video for "Analyse" was evidently ditched)
"Spitting Feathers" is something that takes a little time to grow on you, primarily because the songs are so widely ranging -- some are jagged and crackly, and some are dreamy and smooth. But while these are not quite as brilliant as his other songs, Yorke's talent for odd, creepy little songs is undeniable.
The synth presence is pretty strong here -- sharp beats, smooth ambient sweeps, and fuzzy spatterings like a sonic Jackson Pollock. Haunting vocals from Yorke add to the feeling, with lyrics full of decaying beauty. "This is a ghost coach/we are riding... between the whipcrack/and the moonbeams/I can hear somebody laughing."
"Spitting Feathers" is a worthwhile little EP, if you have the cash to spare -- it has Yorke exploring softer music and trippy, wild stuff that experimental bands would not be ashamed of.