This article was originally printed on 10-9-14.
The actress Gwyneth Paltrow caused a minor stir earlier this year when she announced on her website, GOOP.com, that she and her husband, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, were “consciously uncoupling.” Conscious uncoupling is not just a method for celebrities to imply their quasi-self importance while retaining very little to no self respect. Instead, I’d argue that Yorke (as a solo musician) is trying to “consciously uncouple” himself from Radiohead (I would argue that this is implied by the fact that it is a solo album), while at the same time attempting to hold onto the band’s melodies and signatures in a way that drifts to the realm of tokenism, albeit unconsciously. He can’t let Radiohead’s (obvious) influence go on this album, and I don’t blame him.
It is not exactly surprising that there are subtle indicators and blips of Radiohead on the album. The album itself is not weak, nor is it bad. It is, however, not as inventive as it thinks it is. It’s frustrating that we as an audience know what Yorke is capable of. His work with Radiohead over the last twenty years speaks for itself, yet Yorke does not want to reach the same heights again. He wants to create experimental, electronic, dance music that hasn’t been done before, yet the compositions that he creates are deriviative o f his later work with Radiohead (specifically “In Rainbows,” and, to a greater extent, “The King of Limbs”) and his other solo album, “The Eraser,” from 2006.
However, the album does have its fair share of appealing moments: on “The Mother Lode,” Yorke creates a fastpaced melody that, when combined with Yorke’s voice, manages to convince of its emotion. On the final track of the album, “Nose Grows Some”, Yorke channels a melody not unlike “15 Step,” the opening track from Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” – and sings in his famously indiscernible voice. It is on this track that Yorke’s meta-critique of singing comes full circle. We as an audience have to make decisions and judgments of music (and, for that matter, art) based on everything except the lyrics.
I think that, fundamentally, what Yorke is trying to explain to us is that it doesn’t really matter that we can’t understand what he is singing. What matters is that the way he sings is beautiful.
Schaffer is a member of the class of 2016.