phil selway familial
  • WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 01, 2010

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On Familial, his first solo album, Phil Selway tries to maintain a balance between his folk pursuits and the nagging schizophrenic panic that coats nearly everything he has drummed on in his career. Radiohead, arguably the largest alternative rock band in the world today, has existed at the crux of a number of paradigm shifts, including a best-selling album comprised of jarring, weirdo minimalism, and Selway has always just played drums. So there is the elephant. Like many drummers before him, Selway tries to detach for his solo project, but it's impossible... Radiohead oozes into the cracks of Familial, filling in the negative space, and those momements wind up making the whole thing worth listening to in the first place.

Making this record wasn't exactly an enviable task. Selway had to step out of twenty years of existing behind the drum kit for one of the world's most popular and beloved bands. Thom Yorke may be small but his shadow extends much farther than the five members of Radiohead... his voice is iconic, his aesthetic immediately recognizable, and his influence astoundingly ubiquitous. His solo album sounded like a Radiohead album, and that was OK. Selway's falsetto by contrast is still pretty fragile but has more of a confidence than Yorke, and it lends itself to a more mellow set of songs. Couple that with Selway's interest in predominantly using acoustic guitar, not to mention his experiences with some of the greatest songs of our time, and you've got a dream of a folk record (if you're interested in that sort of thing).

Unfortunately there are a few disappointing moments... a preoccupation with normal things like family and the spotlight of rock stars can be kind of boring when the ear is expecting "myxomatosis" and "women and children first" and sh*t like that. Some might find Selway to be too light for their tastes, especially if they are coming from the Radiohead camp. To them I say, start with "Beyond Reason", a track which utilizes a few familiar noises and progressions... it's the perfect marriage of Selway's own mind, and the minds of his most influential friends. As it turns out, when he lets the two mingle, the result is something spectacularly different. Then ease into the rest. Selway is, after all, one of the most visible musicians in the world, even if he is usually hidden behind a bunch of drums. Give him a chance to stretch his legs. -joe puglisi

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MP3: "By Some Miracle"
Phil Selway on Myspace

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