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Thom Yorke

+ {Atoms For Peace}

Born 7th October 1968 in Wellingborough, England, singer THOM YORKE is of course better known as frontman for anti-Brit-pop technicians RADIOHEAD. From the early 90s as their classic `Creep’ smash hit, to their latter-day noodling (via seminal sets `The Bends’ in ’95 and `OK Computer’ in ’97), one could put the chart-topping quintet up there with legends such The SMITHS, R.E.M. and U2.
Thom’s early life was blighted with a visual impairment that left his left eye paralyzed and shut until he was about six; he duly underwent numerous operations, some of them bungled as he almost lost the sight of the eye in question, leaving his eyelid rather staid and lazy. When his family settled down to life in Oxford (his father was a chemical engineering took salesman), Thom went from boys-school to the local university where he met fellow RADIOHEAD associates Ed O’Brien and Colin Greenwood; the latter’s brother Jonny and Phil Selway would join after they abandoned the On A Friday moniker.
Fast forward to 2006 and letting long-time RADIOHEAD producer Nigel Godrich take a major role in the arrangements of his electronica solo project, THE ERASER {*7} was both inspirational and effective. Hitting the Top 3 on both sides of the Big Pond, fans of the guitar-heavy RADIOHEAD would be disappointed, while “Kid A” supporters from their post-millennial times could rail in tracks such as `The Clock’, `Black Swan’ and the almost funky `Harrowdown Hill’.
Over the years, numerous guest spots with BJORK, PJ HARVEY and of course, a celebrated hit with fellow noodlers U.N.K.L.E. on the excellent `Rabbit In Your Headlights’ single/EP from 1998 (to name just a handful) kept YORKE’s profile in the ascendency; one could also pick him out from other stars in ad hoc alt-rock glam-group Venus In Furs in the pop-movie vehicle, Velvet Goldmine (1998).
An idea floating about in the musical cosmos of THOM YORKE and RADIOHEAD producer Nigel Godrich’s mind since borrowing the affiliated track from the singer’s solo set, ATOMS FOR PEACE made their inaugural appearance at L.A.’s Echoplex in October 2, 2009. Augmented by the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS seasoned bassist, Flea, plus Forro In The Dark’s Mauro Refosco and Nigel’s ULTRAISTA buddy Joey Waronker, AFP resurfaced on a handful of special downloads/12” singles in 2012. Stepping up to the electro grid for full set, AMOK (2013) {*7}, Thom and his techno-throbbing trippers fleshed out an hypnotic and soothing ambient record that delivered on all counts. RADIOHEAD fans of their “Kid A” period will easily possess an affinity with the multi-layered exercises of `Default’, `Judge, Jury And Executioner’ and opener `Before Your Very Eyes…’. Top 5 in most countries, the record was an intrinsic stop-gap between RADIOHEAD’s ever-widening release schedule.
Filed under Artists That Piss People Off, THOM YORKE was back to his old I’m-smarter-than-you tricks by releasing another non-CD set (via BitTorrent @ Bundles): TOMORROW’S MODERN BOXES (2014) {*6} – similar in some respects to RADIOHEAD’s initial web-only recording of `In Rainbows’. It would be fair to say that he’s a discographer’s nightmare as he poses the question of “why we need the conventional CD or vinyl?”, although the latter medium actually gives the set a release toward the end of the year – an expensive Xmas present anyone? One thing is clear, while there’s room for pretentiousness, snobbery has no place in music, although one has to admire the man’s kahunas. Of the album itself, Thom’s fixation with pre-EDM electronica is apparent throughout, albeit with a warmer approach than his icy predecessor from way back in 2006. While RADIOHEAD are still massive among the 30/40-somethings, YORKE explores what it would be like to be ENO; he and stalwart producer Nigel Godrich articulating through languid loops and bleary-eyed bloops, many coming out as bona fide tracks such as highlights, `A Brain In A Bottle’, `Guess Again!’ and `There Is No Ice (For My Drink)’.
Touted to be pursuing a perilous path trodden numerous times by fellow RADIOHEAD musician JONNY GREENWOOD, that was indeed a factor when THOM YORKE surfaced with the soundtrack to Luca Guadagnino’s worthy re-make of SUSPIRIA (2018) {*7}; Gallo giants GOBLIN had blooded Dario Argento’s horror cult classic in 1977. Thom’s commission was something of a shock to many in the trade, though he was well aware of stepping on toes having admitted to be a big fan of VANGELIS’ Blade Runner, and possibly the works of KEITH EMERSON, prior to stepping foot in the studio. Ripping out any comparisons, Thom’s UK Top 20 re-tread was spine-tinglingly tense as it was discomfortingly delicate. The fact that the film score was fleshed out over two discs made up of short-ish vignettes (mostly on Disc one), and/or ultra-prog-length swathes (`A Choir Of One’ lasts 14 minutes; `Volk’ and `Suspirium’ half that), maybe “OK Computer” had subliminally pointed to this neo-classical soundtrack. Was it an “Omen”?
While YORKE’s 50th birthday celebrations clashed in “Suspiria” circumstances, the artist expanded on his Hollywood horizons once again for ANIMA {*7}; its kinetic coda coming from a corresponding thematic short film by director Paul Thomas Anderson. As with RADIOHEAD, in order to avoid leaks by unscrupulous hackers, this Nigel Godrich-produced set was floated down-“stream” on 28th June 2019; with a conventional CD/vinyl release dropping three weeks later. This would certainly see a better chart return than a lowly UK No.50 (later No.5 and US hp#187; then 59). Light years away from his halcyon days fronting RADIOHEAD, and coining catchy choruses by comparison, Thom, here, experimented in noodling electronica as if he were the only paranoid passenger in a one-way mission to Mars. This detached dystopian dawn came across complex and incoherent; the vocals drowned out in a sea of ENO-like woofers and tweeters. Only opening salvo, `Traffic’, `Last I Heard (…He Was Circling The Drain)’, and the HILLAGE-esque finale, `Runwayaway’, emerged out of the waves. Was it really 50 years since Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon? TV theme music commissions more than a possibility.
© MC Strong 1994-2006/GRD // rev-up MCS May2012-Jul2019

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