|Studio album by Thom Yorke|
|Released||10 July 2006|
|Genre||Electronica, alternative rock|
|Label||XL XLCD200 / XLLP200|
|Thom Yorke chronology|
The album comprises electronic music Yorke recorded during Radiohead's 2004 hiatus and between their 2005 rehearsals. The lyrics express Yorke's political concerns; "Harrowdown Hill" was written about the death of David Kelly, a whistleblower who allegedly committed suicide after telling a reporter that the British government had falsely identified weapons of mass destructions in Iraq. The album artwork, by Stanley Donwood, was inspired by the legend of King Canute failing to command the ocean, which Yorke likened to government attitudes towards climate change.
The Eraser debuted at number three on the UK Albums Chart and number two on the American Billboard 200. It was named one of the best albums of 2006 by the NME, Rolling Stone and the Observer, and was nominated for the 2006 Mercury Music Prize and the 2007 Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album.
The album produced two singles, "Analyse" and "Harrowdown Hill". It was followed in the same year by a B-sides EP, Spitting Feathers, and in 2009 a remix album, The Eraser Rmxs. In 2010, to perform the album live, Yorke formed Atoms for Peace with musicians including Godrich and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea.
Background and recording
In 2004, after finishing the tour for their sixth album Hail to the Thief (2003), Yorke's band Radiohead went on a year-long hiatus. Yorke began recording The Eraser with Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich in late 2004 and continued work throughout 2005 between Radiohead rehearsals. He told Pitchfork: "I've been in the band since we left school and never dared do anything on my own ... It was like, 'Man, I've got to find out what it feels like,' you know?" The album was recorded in Radiohead's Oxford studio, Godrich's studio in Covent Garden, London, and Yorke's home.
Yorke wanted to "approach and engage with computers and not a lot else, and yet still have lots of life and energy in the music." To generate ideas, he cut and pasted clips at random from Radiohead's library of original samples. To create the title track, he sampled piano chords played by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood and cut them into a new order. "And it Rained All Night" contains an unrecognisable sample from "The Gloaming" (from Hail to the Thief), and "Black Swan" samples a recording made by Radiohead guitarist Ed O'Brien and drummer Philip Selway in 2000. Yorke said "Harrowdown Hill" was "kicking around" during the Hail to the Thief recording sessions in 2002, but that "there was no way that was going to work with the band."
Yorke initially intended to create instrumental tracks without vocals, but made them songs at the encouragement of Godrich, who said "because it was predominantly electronic, I had a really good excuse to make his voice dry and loud." Yorke found it difficult to write lyrics for the album. He said: "Writing to sequences and samples is a lot harder. When you listen to them over and over again, you can't react spontaneously and differently every time." To finish the lyrics, he translated the electronic music to guitar and piano and generated new musical components in the process.
Music and lyrics
The Observer described The Eraser as "an insidious collection of skittery beats and pattery rhythms and minimal post-rockisms". The LA Times described it as "an evocative portrait of life made slippery by urban sprawl, murky political alliances and global warming ... with the blips and bleeps of Yorke's laptop excursions coalescing into soulful, politically charged songs." Pitchfork described it as "glitchy, sour, feminine, brooding". Citing inspiration from the 1997 Björk album Homogenic, Yorke said the album was designed to be heard in an "isolated space – on headphones, or stuck in traffic."
David Fricke of Rolling Stone felt the album's lyrics have an "emotional and pictorial directness, rare for Yorke". Yorke said the album title was inspired by "these huge elephants that we have in the room at the moment, in the West, and people are desperately trying to erase them from public consciousness." According to the Globe and Mail, "The Clock", influenced by Arabic music, is a "gliding, droning song about losing control while pretending 'that you are still in charge'." "Analyse" was inspired by a blackout Yorke experienced in his hometown Oxford: "The houses were all dark, with candlelight in the windows, which is obviously how it would have been when they were built. It was beautiful."
"Harrowdown Hill" was written about David Kelly, a whistleblower who allegedly committed suicide after telling a reporter that the British government had falsely identified weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. His body was found in the Harrowdown Hill woods near Yorke's former school in Oxfordshire. According to the Globe and Mail, the song resembles a love song with a sense of "menace" and "grim political showdown". Yorke was uncomfortable about the subject matter and conscious of Kelly's grieving family, but felt that "not to write it would perhaps have been worse." In an interview with the Observer, he said it was "the most angry song" he'd ever written.
Artwork and packaging
The Eraser cover artwork, a linocut by Stanley Donwood titled London Views, depicts a figure standing before London destroyed by flood, in imitation of King Canute failing to command the ocean. The artwork was inspired by the 2004 Boscastle flood and an article by the environmentalist Jonathan Porritt comparing the British government's attitude to climate change to Canute. The album is packaged as a single large foldout containing the CD; Donwood and Yorke wanted to avoid using plastic.
On 11 May 2006, Yorke posted a link to theeraser.net on the official Radiohead website. Two days later, Yorke released a press release announcing The Eraser, writing: "I have been itching to do something like this for ages. It was fun and quick to do ... Yes, it's a record! No, it's not a Radiohead record." He emphasised that Radiohead were not splitting up and that the album was made "with their blessing".
The Eraser was released on July 11, 2006 by the independent label XL Recordings. Yorke said he chose the label because "it's very mellow. There's no corporate ethic. All [major labels are] like that. Stupid little boys' games – especially really high up." The album debuted at number three in the UK albums chart and stayed in the top 100 for ten weeks. In the United States, it debuted at number two on the Billboard 200, selling over 90,000 copies in its first week. The album leaked online a month before release; Yorke said he regretted not releasing the album as a download beforehand.
The Eraser produced two singles: "Harrowdown Hill" on August 21 and "Analyse" on November 6. It was followed in the same year by a B-sides EP, Spitting Feathers, and in 2009 by The Eraser Rmxs, an album of remixes by various artists.
|The A.V. Club||B+|
Louis Patterson of the NME praised Yorke's vocals and likened the album to Radiohead's 2000 album Kid A, writing: "Some will mourn its lack of viscera; its coldness; its reluctance to rock. But it’s yet another revealing glimpse into Yorke's cryptic inner-world, and one that has the courage not to hide its political message in code." Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone also likened it to Kid A and said: "These aren't Radiohead songs, or demos for Radiohead songs. They're something different, something we haven't heard before ... it's intensely beautiful, yet it explores the kind of emotional turmoil that makes the angst of [Radiohead albums] OK Computer or The Bends sound like kid stuff." PopMatters wrote: "The Eraser isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s much more than solo-project divergence. Yorke has stayed focused and created a tight album that draws on its predecessors without being held to or afraid of them."
In the Guardian, Alexis Petridis wrote that the album "offers a plethora of low-key delights", but "you can't help imagining what it might have sounded like if Yorke had turned it over to Radiohead." Pitchfork wrote that The Eraser is "strikingly beautiful and thuddingly boring in maddeningly equal measure." The Village Voice praised Yorke's vocals, but found that his "without the hooks of his inspirations or [Radiohead's] density, the results offer pleasantries where they could provoke profound unpleasantries."
The Eraser was named the 15th best album of 2006 by the NME, the 30th by the Observer, and the 34th by Rolling Stone. It was nominated for the 2006 Mercury Prize and the 2007 Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album.
All songs written and composed by Thom Yorke, except where noted.
|1.||"The Eraser" (Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood)||4:55|
|6.||"Atoms for Peace"||5:13|
|7.||"And It Rained All Night"||4:15|
Adapted from the album liner notes.
- Stanley Donwood - artwork
- Nigel Godrich – arrangement, production, mixing, extra instrumentation
- Jonny Greenwood – piano on "The Eraser"
- Graeme Stewart - engineering
- Darrell Thorp - mixing
- Thom Yorke – music, arrangement
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- The Eraser liner notes