By: Eric Greenwood
It's easy to assume that Thom Yorke pulls most of the strings in Radiohead. He's the singer, ergo, the focal point, and he plays guitar. It's a fair assumption. But one listen to The Eraser, and it's clear that his influence extends only so far. So, that means there's good news and bad news. The good news is that all of the members of Radiohead pull their own weight musically. The bad news is that The Eraser sounds a little thin compared to the music of the mothership.
Part of the reason Yorke probably kept this album under wraps for so long was because he didn't want a huge deal to be made of it. And with good reason. It's not anything earth-shattering, so all the fanfare that comes with a Radiohead release would be a bit embarrassing and over-done. If you're a Radiohead fan, The Eraser sounds almost exactly like you'd expect: looped noises, skittering beats, mutated guitars, and, of course, Yorke's mellifluous warble.
Even when Yorke is pushing boundaries sonically, he can't help but be melodic. He confronts political enemies and ideologies, but only in obscure verse. Ever tried to navigate Radiohead's website? Well, trying to follow Yorke's lyrics in any linear sense can often be just as vexing. Uncharacteristically, Yorke utilizes a first person narrative here, which plays well into his self-effacing personality. His paranoia is just as potent as it was a decade ago.
As with anything Yorke does, it's a dour, self-involved affair, but there are moments of sublime artistry. The man's voice has staggering potential to move listeners, and Yorke clearly knows the limitations and scope of his instrument and just exactly when to punch it up a notch. It's just that The Eraser sounds too familiar, too predictable when held to the high level of scrutiny his own band has forced on modern music with the forward-thinking, back to back genius of Ok Computer and Kid A.
On the other hand, if Yorke can toss off a solo record of this caliber without worrying about sacrificing his A-material, then the next Radiohead album has got to be mind-blowing.