written by Chris Familton
In the wake of solo outings by fellow Radioheads Thom and Jonny we are now graced with the intimate musings of drummer Philip Selway. His minimal compositions impress in that they don’t sound like a drummer trying to be a guitarist or an attention seeking singer. Instead he chooses to create moods in stark settings with affairs of the heart and personal relationships at the core of his songs. The context of family in these settings is a crucial one – hence the title of the album.
Neil Finn’s 7 Worlds Collide collaborative project of a few years ago was the impetus for Selway to get his shit together and write and record Familial and it so it often sounds like a songwriter still coming to grips with his songs and voice.The Finn connection is subtly apparent throughout Familial with Finn-esque sweet melodies gliding through Selway’s songs in a pretty, yet not saccharine manner.
Other influences sit near the surface of Selway’s songs. A Simple Life betrays a few Pink Floyd albums in his collection and the folk leanings on songs like the highlight The Ties That Bind Us are undeniably derived from Nick Drake. That song manages to weave Selway’s guitar playing, soft voice and gentle melodies perfectly and tellingly it was the song that stood out among his contributions to 7 Worlds Collide. Across much of Familial it sounds like he has taken The Ties That Bind Us as his template and for the most part it proves to be a reliable guide.
There is little anger in Selway’s songs and even when he sings lyrics like ‘You’re not the friend I knew / A web of lies, I’m compromised / You played me for a fool’ on Broken Promises he still sounds like the nice quiet guy from Radiohead.
Selway was lucky to be able to build on his 7 Worlds Collide collaborations and get Glenn Kotchke and Pat Sansone from Wilco, Lisa Germano and Sebastian Steinberg to appear on Familial. Kotchke in particular provides some sparse and delicate percussion and Germano’s harmonies add a ghostly spectre to the mood of the songs.
The sombre tone and funeral pace of the album means it loses focus toward the back end but redemption is found in the otherworldly and exceptional closer Witching Hour that wouldn’t sound out of place in a dark corner of a Portishead album.
Credit must be given to Selway for stepping out from behind his security blanket drum kit and producing an album of such naked honesty. By carving out his own style he has reduced the regularity by which he will be compared to Radiohead and at the same time give himself comfort to continue to grow and explore his own personal muse.
this review first appeared on FasterLouder