SOUND BITES
Thom Yorke performs at New York's Madison Square Garden in this Aug. 7, 2001 file photo. (AP file photo) 6/13/2003 pg 13X Ground Zero Radiohead's frontman Thom Yorke performs at New York's Madison Square Garden in 2001. CHAD RACHMAN

Thom Yorke, “The Eraser”

***1/2 (out of five stars)

This review of Thom Yorke’s new record will do something a little different from all the others: It will evaluate Yorke’s solo work without comparing it to Radiohead.

Here we go.

Though the music world is quite familiar with Thom Yorke’s work, “The Eraser” is the first we’ve heard of Yorke the Solo Artist — and it’s surprisingly more pop-oriented than one would expect, given all the strange and pretentious songs he penned as a member of Radio … er, never mind.

But that’s not to say this album is entirely accessible. On the contrary. It’s quite difficult at times, and it seems quite proud of itself. No, Yorke hasn’t lost his self-righteousness.

And thank goodness for that. It comes in handy, especially on songs like the title track, “The Eraser,” a jilty piano pop tune sprinkled with 8-bit Nintendo sounds. But Yorke injects just enough self-assurance into it to make the music interesting. If not for that, it would probably be panned as a rip-off of Coldplay, who we all know rips everything off from Radio … ahem, moving on.

There’s dozens of elements in “The Eraser” — electronic loops, diverse instrumentation, Yorke’s signature bleating — that make this album what it is and, for what it’s worth, each song takes its own personality, even if it’s only rooted in some ugly, jolting chord progression.

A few of the best include “Analyse,” “Black Swan” and “And it Rained All Night,” mostly because they’ll remind you of the best works of a band I’m not going to mention.

For most, that sonic diversity is enough to dub Yorke’s album a keeper, and it is. It should sit in one’s music collection right next to …

Oh, who am I kidding? If you like Radiohead, get this album. You won’t be disappointed.

Muse, "Black Holes and Revelations"

***1/2 (out of five stars)

It’s taken four albums, but Muse, the symphonic-electronic rock band that’s huge in Europe but inexplicably unknown in the States, has discovered one of the truly great joys of the corporate music industry: overproduction.

Seconds into “Take a Bow,” the first song, “Black Holes and Revelations” is already oozing with layer upon layer of synthesizers, drum beats and Nintendo sounds (wow, two Nintendo references on one review page).

Well, just sit through it. It gets much better. The distorted piano pop Muse we know and love returns very quickly, and suddenly things get really cool with a run of great songs, including the single “Supermassive Black Hole,” which I could have sworn was written by The Faint.

The middle five or so suffer from the usual Muse mid-album slump, but this is a short album (45 minutes) and, unlike previous collections that end on boring keyboard crooners, it’s entirely worth it to hold out for the grande finale, a surf song named “Knights of Cydonia.”

Ignore the dorky song title and you’ll hear one of the most jaw-dropping, chills-down-the-back album closers mainstream music’s heard in ages.

As a whole, “Black Holes and Revelations” suffers from its own delusions of grandeur. But that’s the Muse way — pretend to create the greatest album ever, stereophonically overwhelm innocent listeners and evoke the apocalypse.

No one does it better.

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