Few bands impacted the ’90s like Radiohead, the indie-rock-cum-sub-pop golden boys from Britain that have inspired legions of imitators (some better than others) and warmed the cockles of even the cold, trendy hearts of the staff at Pitchfork Media. If your decade-long existence has come to be the rubric by which every other art-rock band is measured, what is a man like Thom Yorke to do when he wants to flex his creative muscles?
Apparently, the answer to that question is “Write an album that sounds like Radiohead Lite: Same Great Pop, Now with Less Rock!”
The Eraser strikes me as a curio, something that diehard Radiohead fans will rush out, buy, and set as the centerpiece of their indie circlejerk. The reality? The Eraser accomplishes the same artistic ground as Toby Driver’s In the L…L…Library Loft, a vehicle for vocal and instrumental/sample experimentation, with actually being a even a fraction as daring. The Eraser is nine tracks of soft Thomr Yorke-style scatting over a morphing sample track, perhaps a step away from ambient—a less meaty derivation of Kid A‘s “Everything in its Right Place.”
I sit here and rack my brain, trying to think of even one example of a solo album that has lived up to the quality of its ensemble forebear. Or even departed significantly from its predecessor’s style, for that matter. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of one: certainly, Thom Yorke’s offering fails spectacularly to provide any sort of reason to listen to it at all.
The album isn’t a failure as such—it’s appropriately heady for a project of Yorke’s, and appropriate moody, and catchy in an oblique sort of way. I found myself rather getting into the first two tracks, and then the album slumped in such a way that it never recovered. Perhaps it’s just that Yorke doesn’t bother to differentiate these tracks, and so two is all I can handle before I put on something more interesting. It seems perfunctory, as though he had a contest to see which fans could create the best mid-tempo remixes of old Radiohead songs and then remixed the remixes into sparse, sad affairs. Sonically, it’s a gamble, but other artists have beaten Yorke to the minimalist punch, and we always liked Yorke for his fiery work in Radiohead anyway.