Music Reviews

Philip Selway Familial

(Bella Union) Rating - 6/10

I’ll start with the obligatory observation “good lord! A drummer with a solo project? That. Is. Mad.” It’s true that the percussionist in a band is usually the last you’d expect to put out a solo effort, but surprising moves are hardly a new gambit for Radiohead, who can, on account of being essentially the biggest band in world, do as they please. With the sterling output of Thom Yorke’s The Eraser and Jonny Greenwood’s various superb soundtracks and concert pieces, Selway has an obscene lot to live up to, and, hardly astonishingly, he does not. By a long shot.

Obnoxious and laboured as it may be, let’s have a look at some of the Radiohead similarities. Generally, Phil has managed to avoid them quite well, but there are those that stand out and make you flinch. “Kick it but it won't go away” is a line that could have fit suspiciously nicely into the second verse of Planet Telex. The Witching Hour is also clearly a reference, consciously or not, to Hail To The Thief’s The Gloaming - not that Yorke has a patent on that phrase, but you see my thinking. When interviewed, Selway claimed “if stuff came up that sounded very ‘Radiohead’ I'd edit it out,”... this is understandable, but surely a compromise of the record’s material. Familial has a very inhibited feel, as a result; a feel of treading on eggshells.

There is a strange pattern on this record of tracks starting out intriguingly but then, terrified of sounding like Radiohead, scuttling back to the bald-faced banality of José Gonzalez-cum-David Gray nonsense. The awesome bass opening The Ties That Bind Us is quashed, the tribal lo-fi crunch loop in Beyond Reason is quashed, the distant stutter-tronica in All Eyes On You quashed. It’s a great shame.

The album has no shortage of lovely moments: the chorus of By Some Miracle is catchy as hell, and The Ties That Bind Us - as well as the aforementioned bass intro - has some luscious and cinematic processed strings. Don’t Look Down opens with held organ and sparse compressed piano, sounding distinctly Music For Airports-esque, and, for once, the guitar and vocals enter subtly. The song unfolds, reminiscent of Aqualung.

The lyrics are gratingly trite. Most concern family, hence the album’s title, which is fresh to an extent, but it’s certainly milked somewhat. Addressing his son, for example, “I want to keep you from my mistakes”. Smothering parenting aside, the vocals are generally adequate, if unremarkable and unvaried; tinges of Thom are unavoidable, but there is an idiosyncrasy to his voice, and he at times recalls Eels' Mr E.

It’s a fine record on its own terms, but the it’s just not possible to circumvent the expectations that come with his dayjob. He should probably stick to taking Thom and Jonny's instructions. I mean. There's actually a song called Falling...