Thom Yorke: The Eraser

April 19, 2011

Roll: 3 – 3 – 11
The Eraser by Thom Yorke

The level to which I identify with this album worries me somewhat. I suspect it doesn’t say much for the state of my mental health.

Especially since I’ve never been entirely sure too what the damn thing is about. Urban paranoia? Political paranoia? Interpersonal paranoia? Perhaps all three.

It would probably help if Yorke didn’t mumble like a hobo through the middle half of the album. But then fully understanding what he is prattling on about might ruin the illusion.

The fences that you cannot climb. The sentences that do not rhyme. In all that you can ever change. The one you’re looking for. It gets you down. There’s no spark. No light in the dark. It gets you down. You traveled far. What have you found. That there’s no time. To analyse. To think things through. To make sense.”

When this album came out in the summer of 2006, the songs “Anaylyse” (excerpted above) and “Black Swan” (People get crushed like biscuit crumbs… I’m for spare parts, broken up) became my personal mantras. I remember sitting at my desk with headphones on while repeatedly applying them to my aching soul like a salve.

I realize now, of course, that I was having one of my periodic nervous breakdowns. But there’s something about the songs on this album which never leave me. Something about how it reminds me of Krishnamurti‘s famous words: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

I suppose I should mention at this point in the review, for those of you who might not be aware, Thom Yorke is the lead singer of Radiohead. If you didn’t know that, due to living under a rock in a cave located on the property of a cloistered religious commune, you might also be interested to know Mick Jagger sings for the Rolling Stones.

I bring this delicate point up only because this album is a nice window into what it is Yorke brings, and doesn’t bring, to the Radiohead table. Johnny Greenwood‘s soundtrack to the film Bodysong is the other piece to the puzzle, showing one to be the Lennon to the other’s McCartney (or more accurately, perhaps, Lennon to the other’s Harrison), and demonstrating Radiohead wasn’t quite the exclusive Thom Yorke show people might have suspected.

Both albums are a bit like the sound of one of Radiohead’s hands clapping. The Eraser utilises one set of chord progressions from the Radiohead toolbox and Bodysong the other. I’d be willing to wager mash-ups of tracks from the two albums would probably end up sounding pretty close to In Rainbows.

By virtue of Yorke’s voice, The Eraser naturally sounds the most like a Radiohead album. Specifically, it calls to mind Kid A/Amnesiac—the sessions from which some of the backing tracks actually orginated. When I reviewed the 3-disc edition of Amnesiac, I suggested the b-sides would make a fine third part to a Kid A trilogy.

I seem to have some kind of anxiety around this and feel the need to cap KidA/Amnesiac off with a third album. I’m going to suggest The Eraser would also do well in this regard. It’s the same chilly, glitched-out, laptop rock bolstering the same themes of urban isolation and the inability to adjust to a profoundly sick society.

It’s the kind of music that appeals to someone with an OCD need to have everything ordered in groups of three.


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