Posted by: buggy | 2 June, 2006

First Listen – The Eraser

The lucky kids over at Pitchfork Media managed to get a sneak peak into Thom Yorke's new as-yet unreleased album The Eraser.

Matthew Solarski reports:
Major break-ups, deaths, and Thom Yorke records– pretty much the only stories Pitchfork News wakes up on a weekend to break. A couple of Saturdays back, we caught wind that Yorke was planning his first-ever foray into, um, solitary territory ("i don't wanna hear that word solo," the man wrote in a W.A.S.T.E. e-mail), on a forthcoming album to be titled The Eraser. And now, we've had the distinct pleasure of hearing the album in its entirety. The Eraser is a sumptuous, Nigel Godrich-produced layer cake of plaintive piano, haunting synth squalls, and chugging guitars built atop skittish programmed beats and devoured by Thom Yorke's anguished ruminations on the pressures and paranoias attendant to fame and expectation. And no, it's not a techno record.

Here's a track-by-track first glimpse at The Eraser:

1. "the eraser": The title track opens with a muffled, repeated piano chord. After a few bars and a chord change, programmed beats settle in, and Thom interrupts, "Please excuse me but I got to ask," scraping the upper register. Soon, a gaggle of disembodied, moaning Thoms joins in for the chorus, which seemingly takes a cue from Morrissey: "The more you try to erase me/ The more that I appear".

2. "analyse": Vocal and rolling piano lines launch this meditation on futility. "The fences that you cannot climb/ The sentences that do not rhyme," Thom laments, sad and clever all at once. And later: "It gets you down/ You're just playing a part," one of many presumed jabs at self-identity. The chord progression somewhat recalls an accelerated "Knives Out", with a hesitant snare plodding along in the background, before Godrich drops in the first of The Eraser's many cinematic synth flourishes.

3. "the clock": A cyclical guitar line lends this track an almost motorik vibe, albeit one evoking a leisurely Sunday drive. Click-clack beats add to the pace before the inevitable opening line: "Time is running out/ For us." By the end, Thom is humming a simple, bluesy melody over the steady but relentless rhythm.

4. "black swan": Opens with an almost hip-hop beat, before a blues-inspired riff more than a little reminiscent of "I Might Be Wrong" drops in and sets the structure. "This is fucked up, fucked up," Yorke declares. Later, more identity crises are averted: "I don't care what the future holds/ 'Cause I'm right here and I'm today/ With your fingers you can touch me."

5. "skip divided": Samples of Thom drawing breaths help form the percussive foundation of this dark stalker-ly declaration. Yorke's at his most conversational here, almost pub-drunk, revealing, "When you walk in a room I follow you 'round/ Like a dog/ I'm a dog, I'm a dog, I'm a dog/ I'm a lapdog/ I'm your lapdog." Creepy.

6. "atoms for peace": Thom returns, all homesick alien, beseeching you: "No more going to the dark side with your flying saucer eyes/ No more falling down a wormhole that I have to pull you out," and striving for some higher octaves during the chorus: "I wanna geeet ouuut/ And make it woooork." Celestial tones underscore a warm, bumbling bassline– a relatively minimal arrangement compared to the rest of The Eraser. "So many lies/ So feel the love come off of them/ And take me in your arms," he sings. Thom's own "You're Beautiful"?

7. "and it rained all night": And it's back to the Dark Side for The Eraser's chilliest number, a tune awash in eerie synth and driven by a Joy Division-esque bassline. Thom assumes the role of the poet-observer, surrealistically detailing visions of post-downpour New York, clipped vocal samples later piggybacking the bassline. It culminates in a strained, desperate: "I can see you/ But I can never reach you."

8. "harrowdown hill": Don't get thrown off by the practically post-punk opening bass riff; more haunted synth and programmed beats soon drift in and turn things nocturnal once again. "I'm coming home to make it all right/ So dry your eyes," sings Thom– one of the most conventional, pop-esque vocal melodies on the record. "I can't take the pressure/ No one cares if you live or die/ They just want me gone/ They want me gone." The moment is suspended to make way for some riffing, which closes out the song.

9. "cymbal rush": We're greeted here by what sounds like the Pac-Man death sound effect kicked down an octave; then more funereal, ambient synth, along with pitter-patter programmed percussion not unlike that on "Kid A". "Try to build a wall that is high enough," sings Thom. "It's all boiling over." Finally, the climax: percussion picks up, guitar enters over melancholic piano chords, and more disembodied Thoms float about, moaning– until all drops out for one final blip-bloop parade, which sputters out to an abrupt finish.

Regarding The Eraser, Yorke also wrote "inevitably it is more beats & electronics. but its [sic] songs," and that pretty much sums it up. The record is song-oriented to a perhaps surprising degree– no instrumentals, all tracks pretty much in the four-minute range, mostly standard time signatures– and emphasizes the trademark textural richness of Radiohead and Godrich.

The Eraser lands in stores July 11 in the U.S. (lucky Brits get it a day earlier) via XL Recordings, but for now, those of you who enjoy being puzzled, hop on over to www.theeraser.net for more (totally cryptic) album details.

Oh, and incidentally– that band Yorke sometimes sings for? Stereo-something? They're preparing to embark on a U.S. tour. Tickets available now! On eBay! For $900 a pop! Awesome!

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Responses

  1. This isn’t in relation to your post… but Fake? released an album 2 weeks ago and i thought you might want to give it a listen. You use bittorrent? http://mullemeck.serveftp.org/jps_beta/index.php?page=details&id=20808 here’s a link for the download.

    I remember you saying that you liked that Oblivion Dust cd i lent you previously so i think you MIGHT just like this. It’s different, but it’s by the same guy and i think this album leans more towards Oblivion Dust rather than the old Fake?.

  2. hey, if the CD cover is the one on your blog “Songs from Beelzebub”, I think the album is off to a promising start already. 😉

    If you get your hands on the CD, I’d like to assimilate it into my iTunes. arigatou!! :D:D


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