Playing guitar in Radiohead has taken Ed O’Brien to many different sonic places, and it’s probably safe to assume that Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood have influenced him a little in the process. Now that O’Brien finally has his own solo album, Earth, released under the EOB name, we can see many of those musical avenues drawn together in one spot. O’Brien, other than a few bits here and there, doesn’t simply catalog those influences in a redux. Instead, he puts his decades of experience in Radiohead to use in creating a diverse but not disconnected album.

For years, googling “Radiohead and apocalypse” would essentially shut down the internet, so it’s a little surprising, then, when one of the band members releases an album in the midst of crisis and it has less to do with soundtracking unrest and despair and more to do with providing warmth and some sort of stability. The production tricks are there; the album sounds shiny, but more human than might have been anticipated. O’Brien forays into electronica, but frequently as texture rather than base. He’s a songwriter finding new spaces for himself.

Those songs weave through diverse sounds and places. O’Brien’s time in Brazil was fundamental to the record, more for its sense of travel and expansiveness than for any concrete musical roots. One of the album’s focal points comes with “Brasil,” an eight-minute cut that builds from a simple folk ballad into a psychedelic club number with a prize role for Colin Greenwood on bass. The song captures the album’s persistent placement of natural, organic sounds into more electronic atmospheres. If O’Brien wanted to explore spacey ideas, he’s found just the right setting to do so.

At the same time, though, much of the album stays grounded. “Long Time Coming” draws a quick sketch of “a lonely city girl.” The song never delivers the love or support that she’s been waiting for, but O’Brien’s vocals and the song’s bright tones suggest that she’ll find what she longs for soon. The melancholia anticipates release, a position well served by the dreaminess of the music. Album closer “Cloak of the Night” finds O’Brien in duet with Laura Marling on another folksy number meant to comfort. “No fear, let love prevail,” they sing from safe confines.

Another eight-minute jam, “Olympik” offers a lengthy trance-y track reminiscent of early-’90s U2, and though it has more in common with “Brasil” than “Cloak,” O’Brien manages to weave these disparate tracks into an album that works. Some of the middle-ground cuts like “Banksters” aren’t as immediate, but they turn out to be vital pieces in the flow of the record (and hold up on their own, too).

Earth doesn’t carry the complexity or ambiguity of Radiohead’s work, but, happily, it’s the most Ed O’Brien work out there. His more straightforward songwriting pairs well with either the hypnotic tracks or the more traditional music. The album provides an easy cushion to settle into it, but the toying with expectations and the always changing sounds means you’ll want to stay awake even if you get comfortable. EOB, regardless of his lyrical topics, offers a bright spot right now, music close to a balm, without being anodyne. Earth is good for the world these days.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

Carrie Underwood: My Savior

Underwood looks both to honor the origins of these hymns and demonstrate their relevance t…