'Earth' Review: Ed O'Brien finds his Shangri-La in debut album full of finesse and faded love
For Radiohead fans, you may need no introduction at all to the creative genius that is Thom Yorke who makes headlines frequently, but what about the band? Like most groups, the frontman usually gets the limelight and it is reasonably understandable, but to hardcore fans who get to know the band members very well, it may feel like an injustice of sorts. That simple concept never really seemed to affect the rest of the Radiohead team, as they continued to produce epic music since the band formed in 1985 with hits like 'High and Dry', their most famous 'Creep', and the dreamy march-rhythmed 'I Promise'.
Radiohead's music began adopting more electronics into their music over the years which got some of the members humbly stepping out entirely on certain tracks just to make sure the creative intent was captured on the albums, like the hypnotically dynamic 'Everything in Its Right Place' which didn't include guitarist Ed O'Brien and drummer Philip Selway.
And now, after decades of commitment to the art and the burning passion for music, O'Brien has yielded to his desire to step to the fore and create his own debut album, titled 'Earth' (a fitting moniker during the coronavirus era indeed) and will be using the stage name EOB. According to NME, he spoke about the album's release, saying, “If I don’t do this, a part of me will die.” 'Earth' released on April 17.
The album's first song, 'Shangri-La' immediately expresses a step away from the melancholic Radiohead songs with a playful telephonic melody at the opening leading to a boppy rock rhythm behind fuzzy guitar. O'Brien reveals a hint at relishing in his own solo works as he sings "I didn't really know that I feel so cold. Until I found my Shangri-La" in the chorus.
O'Brien has shared that the album draws inspiration from late-night raves at music festivals and Brazil's Carnival, community and the crave for human connection. 'Brasil', the second track on 'Earth' reveals such emotions. O'Brien addresses his "darling" with a sweet acoustic guitar serenade as a juxtaposition to the darker lyrics, "This bad dream has got me. I'm falling like, I'm falling like. It's in me, and it's in you", found in the beginning of the song. The eight-minute track takes a surprising turn as we get an escapist rave with Brazillian percussive styles and the entire piece feels like a fading goodbye to a loved one. But the outro reveals an echoed commitment: "Eden days. Golden nights. Spent with you. I love you," he sings.
For those wanting the freaky-licious weirdness we would expect from a Radiohead musician, O'Brien flexes his musical muscles on 'Banksters'. Opening in an elevator-music beat, the pace and instrumentation relate to your typical gambler movie anthem, such as a hot number from 'Ocean's Eleven', only the outcome isn't so great for the star. "Where did all the money go? Where did all the money go, you f**k?" he sings.
'Sail On' presents a gentle breezy theme, perfect for your holiday playlist and instantly touches as soothing and freeing. An acoustic guitar plays as a harp-inspired melody with a subtle application of dissonant, scratchy backing instrumentation and we get "The light house stands on the headland, proud and free. Shining light and hope for all those lost at sea" in the verse before O'Brien repeats "Sail on like a summer breeze" in the chorus.
The final track on the LP, 'Cloak of the Night', a richly Simon & Garfunkel-inspired piece gets an utterly resonant harmony with both O'Brien and British folk singer-songwriter, Laura Marling, from start to end. The melody bends slightly from the melodic, happier sounds toward a hinting proposition of sadness; just beautiful, with vocals that just shine as an example of how truly talented and versatile O'Brien is.
It is a wonder why we didn't get solo works from O'Brien before. 'Earth' comes highly recommended piece of artistry and finesse for both fans of Radiohead and those wanting a drift from melancholy to something light and refreshing.