We need not get into the history of Radiohead and recap their significance since the 1990s here on this blog. What’s worth getting into is one of their members who isn’t Thom Yorke putting out a solo record for the first time in his life. In this case, it’s guitarist Ed O’Brien, operating under the moniker EOB with his debut LP Earth, released shortly after his 52nd birthday. Obviously not being alone in his newfound quest, musicians from bands of the likes of Invisible, Portishead and Wilco found themselves chipping into what looks to be a grand 9 tracks.
Opening up the album is “Always”, a simultaneous throwback to Muse-esque aughts rock and early 70s soul, an amalgamation of “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” and “Supermassive Black Hole” with an easy Radiohead touch. “Brasil” starts off as a gentle, folky tune, gradually evolving into groovy electronica with a throbbing bass line. The soul vocals come back on “Deep Days”, which with that and its laid back beat and acoustic texturing pretty much amounts to the ultimate get high and chill song for the avid stoner. Nothing if not English, the melodically glorious “Long Time Coming” is overwhelmingly Frampton-esque, harkening back to “Wind Of Change”, “All I Want To Be (Is By Your Side)” and the classic “Show Me The Way.”
Whereas the previous four tracks were grounded in guided instrumentation while branching out experimentally, “Mass” is more of a tetherless fall through space. The whole thing is a great mix of light harmonies, distorted dabblings and layers of spacey noise set over a simple strum, contrasted by the 7/8 alt-rock jam “Banksters”. “Sail On” floats through the air and ether even more so than “Mass”, leading to the get-lost-in-this-one sonic trappings of the far longer “Olympik”. Bringing Laura Marling into the mix, the album closes out with the folk duet “Cloak of the Night”, rounding out a whirlwind of stylistic adventures that connect and vibe with each other seamlessly.
For a first time effort on his own, it’s safe to say EOB did a hell of a job. Sure, he’s had plenty of experience up to this point, but breaking away and doing your own thing isn’t always an easy thing to do- especially when you’re not the figurehead of the band. EOB shows a ton of musical expertise and maturity on his debut record, leaving behind a trail of great songs for different places and purposes. If ever Radiohead should split or he should leave the band, by the standard set here it won’t be too hard for him to get by.