So, Phil Selway – probably the last member of Radiohead I expected to release a solo album – has gone ahead and, despite being recognised as one of the finest drummers of the past two decades, abandoned his drum kit for a guitar. Thank god, might I add. He’s a brilliant drummer, but I’m not so sure I could bear a solo drum album. So, leaving his drum kit for six nylon strings and a microphone, Selway has composed an album that slots just left of centre in with the rest of the indie-folk coming out at the moment.
Little nods to contemporary acts such as Bright Eyes, Iron And Wine, and Bon Iver are definitely present in Familial, but the most prominent influences on Selway seem to be the forgotten folk artists of the late 60s/early 70s – Nick Drake, Rodriguez, Tim Buckley – and 90s artists such as Jeff Buckley and Elliott Smith. Familial would definitely feel more at home in the 70’s than the 10’s.
The record consists largely of just guitar and vocals, with percussion, bass, horns, and any number of other instruments entering the fray only for a song or two. And I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Matt, you’re a massive Radiohead fan. How can you possibly expect to be able to write an unbiased review?”. I was thinking that myself. But the fact of the matter is that Selway has really hit the nail on the head – this what a folk album should sound like. Sure, it’s not perfect. It’s not about to be a contender for the album of the decade, as Selway’s releases have been in the past. It’s good in its own right, I’ll give it that. And it may well be the only insight we get into Selway’s personality.
Familial is a good folk album. Selway’s mournful voice and quiet guitar offers a traditional record, but retaining the weird appeal that Radiohead have become synonymous with. Some tracks are amazing, some are disappointing. It’s good. It’s not brilliant, but it’s good, and will serve as an interesting footnote to Radiohead’s story, and to whatever Selway accomplishes next.
Recommended tracks: By Some Miracle; All Eyes On You; The Ties That Bind Us; Broken Promises
If you like: Nick Drake; Jeff Buckley; Tim Buckley; Radiohead