It would seem that you can’t keep Radiohead out of the news for long. Singer Thom Yorke has recently surprised everyone with the release of new album Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes and, with guitarist Jonny Greenwood and drummer Philip Selway both suggesting the Oxford five-piece are imminently about to start work on what will be their ninth studio album, fans are on tenterhooks once more. In the meantime, the band members have been keeping themselves busy popping up here, there and New York City for example, where a recent photograph of an animated Nick Cave bumping into Greenwood – in the Big Apple for a run of shows performing the score he wrote for There Will Be Blood – has gone viral.
Selway has been busy too; a commission for the Rambert Dance Company was one venture, a contribution to this year’s debut offering from Bella Union counterparts Snowbird another. And now, some nine months after it was recorded in Radiohead’s Oxfordshire studio his second solo album follows, four years on from 2010’s Familial, a collection of soft arrangements aiming for intimacy that reflected the learning and development stage of his own songwriting skills as well as his voice.
Recorded as a three-piece with previous collaborators Adem Ilhan – who also produced the collection – and multi-instrumentalist Quinta, Selway has declared that he feels a lot more confident this time around, and excellent album opener and lead single Coming Up For Air supports his theory. It’s a unique sounding effort, a vibrating synth riff, subtle guitar and unusual percussion combine to provide an intriguingly mesmerising number alongside Selway’s adequate – although limited – softly echoing vocal range.
Let It Go mixes an unpredictable piano presence with tambourine and clashing cymbals that create an atmospheric effort reminiscent of mid-period U2’s quieter and subdued album tracks. Second single It Will End In Tears is an epic that begins with gentle piano and quietly supportive percussion recalling some of The Beatles’ work before the track develops into an anthemic, orchestral climactic sequence: “It will end in tears and I won’t be sorry, no” he declares in typical Radiohead-driven darkness.
Don’t Go Now is another gem; acoustic pluckings and strings create the backdrop to a gorgeous piece of heartfelt pleading where Selway’s softly hushed vocals fit perfectly without being over-challenged. Turning It Inside Out follows a similar path of minimalism, this time a more unconventional drum pattern leading the track forward whilst Drawn To The Light ticks along to a gentle beat and intermittently injected violin for another subtly beautiful effort but this time the vocals are a little stretched at the top end.
Other results are middling though. Miles Away uses an unconventional time signature to little effect, the minimalism again prevalent but unexciting and Ghosts floats around in an unconvincing combination of swirling cymbals and acoustic guitar. Selway claims that the writing process sees the music created first before lyrics are written and added but occasionally the music is developed up to the point of incidental background music and not beyond, hence in places there may be a few heads nodding off.
In some ways it’s a little unkind of Yorke to steal his less-heralded bandmate’s thunder with the sudden release of his second solo album some eight years after The Eraser. With media attention currently all over the new material from Radiohead’s frontman there is a danger of Weatherhouse slipping out unnoticed; that would be a crime as there are enough highlights here that make this a very enjoyable, if unvaried, record.