By Kelly Scott | September 22nd, 2010
I’m not a proponent of solo projects. There, I said it. Some pull it off (Lou Reed, Paul Simon, Sting), but ultimately I’ve always felt that synergy is what drives the success of many bands. That being said, adhering to theory, I initially dismissed drummer Phil Selway’s (Radiohead) solo debut Familial as another overly optimistic, well-tread attempt at redefinition.
Walking into the local vinyl distributor, I overheard a few guys tossing back unrestrained, generally favorable commentary on Selway’s Familial. In need of new music, on a whim, I bought the album. The cover art freaked me out, but whatever. It doesn’t hurt in terms of marketing that Selway has roots in internationally renowned Radiohead, guest appearances by members of Wilco and Soul Coughing, and production from the UK’s Bella Union. With all that working in his favor, mathematically, Familial SHOULD hold its own. But does it
Familial is a collision of typical tranquilized Radiohead and a run-on sentence. It is uncomplicated, delicate, and at times swims laps in a pool of tedium. The lyrics are significantly less intricate then on any Radiohead album. Which isn’t entirely bad, considering deciphering cryptic text all the time is exhausting — but it almost feels too contrived.
Redeeming qualities? It provides no counterpoint to Radiohead. “By Some Miracle” is a very gloomy folk number that steals the listener’s ear early with affected Nick Drake/Jim Croce tenderness. The following tunes sort of follow suit, with minor bouts of inflection and timbre deviation. A sunny quality to the album is that it feels very sincere. Selway comes across as extremely affable and honest, making it challenging to give up on Familial.
Stepping out on your own is extremely difficult, especially when detaching from such a deep history of remarkable music. Familial in no way detracts from the fact that Selway is a proficient drummer, or creative musical entity. If you ask me, the album is a slightly above-passing grade, but who am I to say? Be your own judge.