Earth is Ed O’Brien’s debut album and is released under the moniker EOB, which hardly needs an explanation. His debut has reputedly been nine years in the making. So what did he come up with?
Words by Declan O’Dwyer
O’Brien is the fourth member of Radiohead to release a solo album, Earth, following in the footsteps of Thom Yorke, Johnny Greenwood and Phil Selway.
Album opener, ‘Shangri-La’ is an ode to one of the more famous stages at Glastonbury. It is the most commercial track on the record and may well go on to be his most recognised track in the years to come. This dance-orientated track has soulful backing singers and slowly builds pace until the chorus, where the electric guitar becomes more evident. Lyrically he mystifies Shangri-La into a magical place, which to many I suppose is:
“No more loneliness… just you and me… and she is safe from harm… Super Moon… lighting up the sky…”
The repeated closing refrain, ‘like a summers dream…’ reinforces that thought process.
The next track ‘Brasil’ is probably inspired by that country, which O’Brien and his family spent some time in after the release of The King of Limbs album. The track has an acoustic guitar beginning, which gives it a more traditional singer-songwriter type quality.
Around three minutes in, as the track seems to be fading out we begin to hear a pulsating techno beat, which gives the track a radical change of direction. It keeps this energy going for the remainder of the track.
The strumming of a guitar leads us in to ‘Mass’ with the harmonies reminiscent of The Beatles ‘Because’, which it veers away from quickly enough. This guides us in to the sound of a distorted electric guitar. The slightly eerie atmospheric background cinematically imagines one in a deep forest.
‘Bankster’ has a techno intro. It’s the most Radiohead-sounding track on Earth. If I were told that it was a long lost Radiohead track, somewhere in between the recording of the OK Computer and Kid A albums, it would make sense.
It also reemphasises the importance of Ed O’Brien to the overall sound of that band. Lyrically, it examines the fallout from the banking crisis and how greed and lies can destroy us. The anger is evident in the chorus:
“Where did all the money go, you fuck?”
‘Sail On’ has an acoustic atmospheric opening and dons a resigned and mournful tone. This stripped back track doesn’t do much for me.
There’s a funky African-like beginning to ‘Olympik’. It’s got a Primal Scream Screamadelica-type of spirit and would not have sounded out of place in the Hacienda.
The closing number, ‘Cloak of the Night’ is the track where he duets with Laura Marling. The strumming from the outset steers them in to singing in unison. A nice homemade mood emanates from it, the track does not change pace throughout. Simplicity is key and it serves it well.
Though it may not be as musically adventurous as some of the solo work from his bandmates. This is neither a good nor bad thing. It deserves to be judged for what it is on its own merits. In any case it’s a promising debut from Ed O’Brien. It mixes some lo-fi recordings with more techno laden tracks while holding a constant thread throughout.
Songs worth putting on repeat: ‘Shangri-La’, ‘Brasil’ and ‘Banksters’
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