Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Album review - Philip Selway 'Familial'

Philip Selway
(Bella Union)

ONE OF THE world’s most proficient drummers, Philip Selway’s innovative timing and off-kilter rhythms give Radiohead their most distinctive edge. Odd then, that Selway’s debut solo album features very little - almost none in fact - of his trademark off-beat drumming.
Instead, we get a deeply personal, understated and at times whimsical offering that deals with themes of growing old and the importance of family - hence the name.
Selway is the third Radiohead member to venture into the solo realm after Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood, and those expecting a duff offering - as is often the norm for drummers from hugely commercial bands - will be pleasantly surprised.
Radiohead fans will not, knowing that Selway has provided backing vocals on several occasions over the band’s seven studio albums - the eighth which is currently being recorded, but not before the engaging Selway takes his own solo compositions on tour.
And what a voice he has. It is not showy or flashy, or similar to the tear-inducing falsetto that Yorke is famous for - rather Selway’s is nuanced and subtle, allowing his voice to creak and crack where necessary.
His impressive range is complemented by the fact that, to a large degree, Selway allows his voice to be the main instrument on the album - and avoids any Radiohead-type sounds, a few digital glitches aside.
The hushed and haunted By Some Miracle opens the album in stunning, Nick Drake style, Selway’s deliciously off-kilter melodies accompanied by gentle harmonies - courtesy of Lisa Germano, who worked with Selway and Neil Finn on the 7 Worlds Collide project.
Familial also boasts Wilco members Glenn Kotche and Pat Sanson - impressive special guests if you can get them, but then Selway’s day-job probably helps with that.
The drumming loops, handclaps and digital rattles of the Tom McCrae-sounding Beyond Reason is the closest Selway allows himself to stray toward Radiohead’s territory.
It is the three core songs of the superb Ties That Bind Us - a countrified and harmonic folky offering with deep double-bass sounds - the very delicate and subversive Patron Saint and sweeping, string-driven Falling, that forms the emotional heartbeat of this album. The ghostly, slow-burning Don’t Look Down is the stand-out track on offer on an album that should open the eyes of both Radiohead and non-fans alike.
Rating 4/5

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