Thom Yorke The Eraser

This debut record from Radiohead’s front-man has been passed off as a modest achievement, something he had kicking around at home that would work as a peace offering to fans while the band finish their seventh album. While it’s hard to consider this as no big deal — it is Thom Yorke, after all — The Eraser isn’t exactly essential listening. Yorke is, after all, just one-fifth of a band that is revered for having such equally talented individuals. What you get with The Eraser is fundamentally one of them casually at work with long-time producer Nigel Godrich, forming moody, expressional soundscapes that suit Yorke’s distinctly enigmatic lyrics. It’s evident that he’s largely responsible for the band’s left turn they made with 2000’s Kid A, considering there’s hardly a guitar to hear, much less one used in a conventional manner. Instead, Yorke puts his fondness for IDM to work here, programming puttering drum machines and letting synthesisers run along independently for unpredictable results. "Atoms for Peace” and "Cymbal Rush” encapsulate this best, sounding like numerous acts in Warp’s back catalogue. Not to take anything away from his fun though, but what Yorke builds with his studio gizmos is hardly innovative stuff. More impressive is the title track, which gives off a warm radiation lifted mostly by the exquisite emotive gift of Yorke’s voice muttering his poignant words. "Black Swan,” meanwhile, comes closest to something Radiohead-friendly, with layers that best represent the sound of a band and offering the most guitars any song is permitted here. Like Radiohead’s most experimental work, The Eraser will divide fans. But you have to sense that he is putting this out there for those interested in hearing Thom Yorke’s singular vision, not his something that resembles his band. (XL)