MUSICREVIEW Thom Yorke The Eraser 3 Stars Maybe it's because us college students came of age - musically and otherwise - when Radiohead first burst onto the national stage with "Creep," that pouty paean to self-loathing. But - even though it's been 12 years - it doesn't seem that long ago that the band's frontman, Thom Yorke, was just another whiny Brit with a bad bleach job who looked grateful to be playing one of his songs (in this case, "Anyone Can Play Guitar") at the MTV beach house. Back then, Yorke looked like he actually could have become a rock star instead of the reluctant countercultural icon he is now. Of course, that's not exactly what happened - and when you think about it, you realize Yorke hasn't changed that much. His lyrics, though they've taken a less personal bent since The Bends, still deal with alienation and efforts to find one's identity in a confusing world. His voice is still as crystalline and lilting as it was on "Fake Plastic Trees" or "Blow Out." Recording sessions with his band - a new Radiohead album is due next year - are, by all accounts, as tough as ever. No, the only thing that's changed is his music - and, as Yorke's first solo album shows, even that hasn't gone too far off the deep end. The Eraser sounds exactly as you would expect a Yorke solo joint to sound. It's Kid A without the band or Hail to the Thief if every song sounded like "Backdrifts." Every song builds off a basic bloops-and-loops soundscape. Every song sees Yorke stretching the natural range of his voice. Every song features lyrics that might or might not make sense depending on how many drugs you've taken before listening to the CD. That's the formula, and Yorke doesn't stray from it on the nine songs on The Eraser - making the album a long listen even though it only clocks in at 40 minutes. It also mars individual tracks, most of which simply aren't that interesting musically and which rely on Yorke's melodies and imagery to maintain the listener's attention. Sometimes, that works. Sometimes - particularly in the middle of the nine-song album - the writing simply isn't up to snuff, and you find yourself reaching for the "skip" button. And, Yorke being Yorke, even the good songs can leave you with your head scratching - such as when he sings "Peel all your layers off/ I want to eat your artichoke hearts" on the otherwise lovely "Atoms for Peace," which has him showing off his falsetto to wonderful effect. Ultimately, The Eraser makes a solid case that Yorke is at his best when he has a foil - in Radiohead's case, guitarist Jonny Greenwood - to temper his tendencies, to work with his ideas, to get him to not settle for retreads of electronic music that other groups were making 12 years ago. That's why Kid A - and, to a lesser extent, Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief -- are good, even great, records. It's why the world looks forward to the next Radiohead album with bated breath. And it's why Yorke's album, though pretty at times, amounts to nothing more than a competent diversion from a musician who's capable of quite a bit more. Contact the A&E Editor at email@example.com.