Mar 14, 2023
By Ian Rushbury
Being the drummer in Radiohead probably closes as many doors at it opens. On the one hand, you’ve already got a well-established CV (and possibly a contractual obligation to a record label), but when your solo work isn’t in the same ballpark as the band that made you famous—things can get unpleasant. Fortunately, for Philip Selway, his third solo album Strange Dance won’t alienate Radiohead fans, but won’t make them shout “plagiarism!” at anyone who will listen, either.
Strange Dance is Selway’s third solo album and carries on where 2014’s Weatherhouse left off. The synths and electronic adornments are all in place, but here they’re augmented with strings and brass. Selway had the good taste to invite Portishead’s Adrian Utley to contribute and his involvement is pretty much guaranteed to elevate the quality of a project.
It sounds as if composing the music for the 2017 Polly Steele film Let Me Go has had a long lasting effect on Selway, as many of the pieces on Strange Dance have a widescreen, cinematic feel. That’s especially true of the title track, which swells from a pulsing drumbox beat and a simple bassline to a rich, full orchestral section, before gently paring itself back to a simple rhythm. The strings make another appearance in “Make it Go Away,” giving the chorus a gentle lift and supporting Selway’s plain but lovely voice. Laura Moody’s arrangements are worth the price of admission on their own.
One thing that this record shares with the best of Radiohead’s output is the superb use of dynamics. Selway displays an almost architectural approach to building a song, introducing elements only when they are necessary. The judicious use of treated instruments and electronica on tracks such as “The Heart of it All” show that he has a really strong idea of what makes a good song, great.
Strange Dance proves that Selway is more than just “the drummer in Radiohead.” With critics falling over themselves to give the Thom Yorke/Jonny Greenwood vehicle The Smile kudos, let’s hope they also throw some love at him. He’s earned it. (www.bellaunion.com/artists/philip-selway)
Author rating: 7/10
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