Thom Yorke

The Eraser (XL)

Really, Thom Yorke could loop the sounds of himself snoring and Radiohead's obsessive fans would buy it. He's done a little more than that on his solo debut, in which electronic beats are cut and pasted together from live instruments and synthesizer bleeps, though The Eraser's nine tracks are songs and not mere laptop experiments. With its cut-up academic beats, each song could be mistaken for a Kid A B-side, except that longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich recorded Yorke's voice so free of reverb that it sounds like he's standing a couple feet away. Often, the rhythms are so complicated that it takes a few listens to find the groove--or to distinguish some songs from others. Seldom does a memorable melody arise from the minimalist tapping beats and synth noise. But only those who expected a fully fleshed-out, Radiohead-style album will be disappointed, even if some of the skeletal song structures would probably be improved with ideas from Jonny Greenwood and the rest.

But there are still some standouts, like "And It Rained All Night," in which spooky synths and driving percussion tell a story of helplessness in a deluged metropolis, and the political statement "Harrowdown Hill," with mournful synths floating over chopped-up, pounding drums. Yorke's lyrics aren't any more straightforward here as he addresses fear, loneliness and love in phrases that sound like overheard conversations and arguments. That's a good thing: "I'm a dog, I'm a dog, I'm a lapdog/I'm your lapdog" from "Skip Divided" says so much more than, say, "I love you."

 
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