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The Unbelievable Truth About Thom Yorke's Brother

Radiohead frontman's sibling introduces own British pop group to U.S. with major-label debut.

LOS ANGELES -- It was far from your usual, noisy, hot August night

at the West Hollywood club the Viper Room.

As the Oxford, England, pop trio Unbelievable Truth delivered an acoustic

set of material drawn from their major-label debut, Almost Here

(Oct. 20), the full-room crowd stood and listened intently, in almost

mesmerized silence. The band's tunes are not the kind you get up and dance

to, after all.

While bassist Jason Moulster and guitarist/keyboardist Nigel Powell sat on

opposite sides of the stage, singer/guitarist Andy Yorke held the center

spotlight as he voiced Unbelievable Truth's reserved, mild tunes.

Yorke barely resembles his rock-star brother, Thom Yorke, frontman of the

massively successful rock band Radiohead. While Thom Yorke is a

fragile-looking

leader -- thin and pale, with reddish hair -- the dark-haired Andy Yorke is of

stockier build, having a kind-of tousled, undergraduate presence.

And the music the brothers make is as dissimilar as their appearance. Apart

from the common ground of heart-wrenching melodies and emphasis on mood,

Unbelievable Truth bear little musical resemblance to Radiohead.

But Powell and Andy Yorke, both 26, who have been playing together since they

were teen-agers, say it took some time in Britain and Europe before

Unbelievable

Truth were recognized on their own terms. And, as Almost Here

approaches its U.S. release date, they say they realize that the same will be

true on these shores.

"I think we've found a kind-of level in Britain, with people getting to

know us, that there's not so much of that anymore," Andy Yorke said, speaking

recently from his Oxford home, which he shares with Powell.

"I'm sure it's going to be the same thing all over again in the States,"

Powell added. "When we started doing the album, we knew it was an issue, so

we decided the way to deal with it was make the best album we could and

hope that eventually people would get bored of making comparisons."

On Almost Here, the trio's willowy approach to music arrives in 11

melodically rich but sparsely arranged tunes that put atmosphere over sonic

fullness. The songs are late-night evocations of heartache, yearning and

melancholy -- both lyrically and musically.

While "Same Mistakes" hints at a rock potential, such standouts as "Stone,"

"Higher Than Reason" and "Solved" are carefully rendered, minimalist pop

songs. As acoustic guitars and piano keep the sonic atmosphere moody and

loose, Andy Yorke's vocals soar above, sounding alternately haunting and warm.

"I think the atmosphere is something you find in a song when you're writing

it, just sort-of strumming through it," Andy Yorke said. "To me, the most

important part of songwriting is to find that nucleus of the song and

[develop] it."

"Our strength as a writing team is that we all seem to hear the atmosphere

the same way," added Powell, who also produced the album. "We all kind-of

carry it through our instruments."

Though Unbelievable Truth -- named after the Hal Hartley dark-comedy film

-- started playing together in 1993, Andy Yorke put the band on hiatus in

mid-1995 to study in Russia for a year. It wasn't until he returned to

England in September 1996 that Unbelievable Truth decided to get

serious.

"I had kind-of bailed out of music, really, and I wasn't planning on going

back," Andy Yorke said. "After I came home from Russia, I listened to what

we'd

done before, and it sounded a lot better than it had -- it sounded worth

hearing."

Noting that many of the songs initially come off as sounding bleak, Andy

Yorke is

vague when asked what the tunes are about specifically. "But I don't think

that's the overall impression you get from the songs. [The title track]

sounds

like despair, but it's not far from a resolution -- from coming out of the

despair."

Though not all of Almost Here's numbers are the results of three-way

collaborations, the folk-pop number "Building" took shape while Andy Yorke,

Powell and Moulster sat in Powell's bedroom and jammed on acoustic guitars.

"There's a lot of ambiguity," Andy Yorke continued. "I like that you can go

back

and read it in different ways."

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