Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Thom Yorke / The Eraser / Rating: 6.6

“On a smaller scale, the problems afflicting these tracks afflict the album as a whole; even allowing for the better-crafted songs, there's little-to-no dynamic range on The Eraser. As a listening experience, it's claustrophobic and compressed, and with rare exception, offers little in the way of wide open space.”

For some reason I had trouble opening the Pitchfork review of The Eraser so I began the review process without a hint of what was said by them. To my surprise the chemical reaction I had to Thom Yorke solo was accurately put into words by PFM. The difference is I don’t mind the closed space feeling of the record. In fact I relate to it intensely.

Let me get the rating out of way here and if you keep reading you will understand why I think this deserves the slightly higher rating of 7.6. It is a curious sensation to have an entire record reflect something I associate with mania / panic and while it’s not exactly like staring the beast in the eye, it’s comes pretty close. For this reason I can’t help but want to throw myself deeply into The Eraser just to see where I am spit out at the end of it all.

It has been stated here by me before but as a medicated manic person I still suffer from panic driven moments. I don’t have specific triggers nor are any two attacks the same but the general result is an assault on the brain that feels as if a tornado is striking my head. Words or full sentences, occasionally an event or a portion of a conversation will be repeated over and over again whipping in cycles around my mind at top speeds. When these seizures take place they reduce my sleep to practically nothing and my brain goes into a marathon mode of productivity. I know that doesn’t sound half bad but trust me, living as a restless individual around the clock is exhausting to the point of sickening. Internally speaking I become twitchy; suffocated by my endless freight train of thoughts and activity. Worst of all my more carefully paced spaced out thinking is erased and in its place is a tightly wound person desperately wanting to crawl out of their own skin just to have a rest.

Pitchfork’s use of “claustrophobic” and “compressed” very much hits the nail on the emotional head. It is painfully accurate to both myself and this Thom Yorke record.

Sorry to get so personal but my goal has always been to share my personal reactions to records rather than offer the same old review. I can’t get over just how close The Eraser is to a manic episode. More specifically its stuttered melodies, broken beats, and voice that never seems to come up for air. This particular combination has my breathing tripped up by track 4 and I wholly blame Black Swan’s “this is fucked up” echoed 14x for pushing me into a nearly asthmatic place.

Repetition for manics and OCD types is a wicked but affective tool that chips away at something that from the outside may appear to act as if a record skipping but is in fact is a path with a beginning, middle, and end. When you repeat something / practice an act or repeat a word enough, you will eventually master it and eventually be free to stop whatever it was you started. This is probably a ridiculously abstract way to explain this Thom Yorke record but I hear a similar glitchy pattern created by his relentless vocals. They tick away as if an ominous clock.

For those who have no idea what I mean- imagine the drawn out under water scene from The Poseidon Adventure with Gene Hackman. You are practically holding your breath for the actors as they swim under water for an inexplicably long amount of time; desperate to find a safe way of passage. This fight for life under suffocating conditions translates across the screen to the viewer as a high stress situation and at least for me, it makes me very aware of my breathing. I find myself struggling for air as if having cinematic sympathy pains.

Thom Yorke doesn’t just sing, he chants in an endless string of moody Morse Code-as if his lungs are tapping out serious messages to the listener. Running parallel to the perils of the Poseidon Adventure, I find myself holding my breath until the wrong is turned right side up.

By the end of The Eraser (and the song “Cymbal Rush”) I get a huge sense of relief; a genuine satisfactory feeling that I have been through something slightly exhausting; nerve wracking but strangely beautiful and very much worth the harrowing experience.