Thom Yorke, more than any other modern rock musician, has consistently captured the popular mood of disgust and betrayal at the neo-liberal project, and George Bush and Tony Blair’s wars.
Yorke and his band Radiohead could have trodden the obvious U2 style path to stadium giant status following 1997’s monster hit album OK Computer.
Instead they chose to follow their instincts, making three remarkable albums - Kid A, Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief - which have been musically challenging, experimental, and politically radical.
Their support for Amnesty and Friends of the Earth is well known.Yorke recently refused an invitation to meet Blair to discuss climate change. Radiohead refused to play Live8 last year, and Yorke has since said he feels the whole campaign was a distraction from the real business of solving world poverty.
Recorded with Radiohead’s producer Nigel Godrich, Yorke’s excellent new album The Eraser accentuates this direction further.
Beautiful, jittery and multi-layered electronic beats are combined with desolate English folky blues.
The overall feel is often more soulful and warm than much of his Radiohead work.
Where Radiohead’s songs tend to be fairly evenly split between the personal and political, The Eraser is aimed squarely at the state of the world.
A recurrent Yorke theme is that of ordinary people being screwed over by politicians and the system.
“Black Swan”, like many of Yorke’s recent songs, seems to speak directly to Tony Blair:
People get crushed like biscuit crumbs
Lying down in the bitumen
You have tried your best to please everyone but it just isn’t happening
This is fucked up
“The Clock” pours scorn on the inaction of world leaders on climate change.
Yorke says “Harrowdown Hill” is his “most angry song”. It is named for the place former UN weapons inspector David Kelly was found dead.
Yorke’s anger and sometimes despair is always tempered with defiance. The Eraser’s title track reminds our rulers that their lies won’t work and will come back to haunt them.
Our movement needs more musicians prepared to stick their necks out and take risks like this.
The Eraser is released on Monday 10 July