Over the years, rock-star side projects have not fared particularly well. More often than not they are a self-indulgent mess or an ill-advised ego-trip, having little worth to anyone other than devoted disciples. So what to make of the news that Philip Selway, the unassuming Radiohead drummer, is to release his first solo album nearly 20 years into the band’s celebrated career?
For such a hugely successful group, the members of Radiohead are among the most publicity shy in modern music. They aren’t, however, adverse to the odd stunt, as the no-singles-to-be-released-from-“Kid A” furor and the pay-what-you-want experiment for their last album, “In Rainbows,” prove.
Selway is perhaps the band’s most innocuous member, having little creative input into Radiohead’s tunes, and being just as well known for his charity work as any kind of musical prowess.
It makes his decision to launch a solo career a surprising one, yet here he is with a world tour to coincide with the release of his “Familial” album. Of his motivation for this new project, Selway says, “When you’re the same age as the prime minister, you think ‘I’d better get on with this.’ “
Produced by Ian Davenport of Radiohead’s Courtyard Studios at their Oxfordshire base, “Familial” will shock many. That’s not just because the emotional resonance of the sparse folk and haunting melodies inspired by the death of his mother in 2006 is genuinely moving, but because it is actually pretty good.
Japanese fans should be particularly excited, not to mention privileged, as Selway’s whistle-stop tour — a date in Tokyo followed by one in Osaka — are his debut live shows. Not even British fans will have had the chance to see what are surely going to be, at the very least, some intriguing shows with Radiohead’s unsung talent.
Philip Selway plays Shibuya’s Duo Music Exchange in Tokyo on Aug. 26 and Shinsaibashi’s Club Quattro in Osaka on Aug. 27. Tickets cost ¥5,500 in advance. For more information, visit www.philipselway.com