Words About Music
Thom Yorke “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes”
Since the last time Thom Yorke put out a solo album, we’ve gotten two Radiohead albums (one phenomenal, one less so), one somewhat forgettable Atoms for Peace album, and countless collaborations with the likes of Flying Lotus, Burial, and MF DOOM. With the exciting news that Radiohead is re-entering the studio (hopefully with better material than what we got last time), I guess the last thing people expected was a new Thom Yorke solo release. Mr. Yorke’s new album, “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes,” harkens back to the “surprise internet release” method that he could probably claim to have invented. Pay-what-you-want is commonplace now, but people forget that it broke some real ground back in late 2007 when “In Rainbows” came out. It’s not the way it’s released that matters, though, it’s the material. And the material found on Thom’s second studio album is… less than satisfactory.
While Yorke’s 2006 debut album “The Eraser” is by no means a groundbreaking album considering the direction Radiohead started moving in with 2000’s monumental “Kid A.” But, it is a good album nonetheless and one that I think definitely outshines similar albums like “The King of Limbs” and “Amok.” “The Eraser” has a discernible flow and mood that I think makes it thoroughly listenable and enjoyable. “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes,” though, seems to eschew that. It’s quieter and more understated, but not in a way that makes it feel more intriguing or inviting. It feels, dare I say, kind of boring. As with any recent Thom Yorke release, I do find myself enjoying the sounds and textures that are on this record. Yorke and producer Nigel Godrich are soundsmiths if ever there were any. It’s just that the sounds aren’t applied in ways that make interesting songs.
It actually doesn’t even feel like these were actual songs that were written with pre-conceived ideas and lyrics. And that’s not technically a problem, but it makes “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes” feel disjointed and unfinished. If some of the ideas on the album were more fleshed out, I might enjoy it more. It makes “The King of Limbs” feel like “Kid A.” And that’s not to say that the album is in any way terrible, it just feels middle-of-the-road. At least M.O.R. in a day and age where dark, most atmospheric production is the new norm.
There are some songs on here in the front half that I would dare to classify as good, but for the most part “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes” leaves me feeling mostly indifferent. I’d call it a disappointment, but it’s not like there was a chance for a ton of hype to build up for the album. If anything, it makes me feel more confident that Radiohead’s new material is going to be much more thoughtful and fleshed out. There’s something about Yorke without Jonny, Colin, Ed, and Phil that feels very wrong. I’ll make a deal with you Thom: I’ll forget this album ever happened, and you deliver the best Radiohead album in 15 years. Sound good?
SCORE – 5.6
FAVORITE TRACKS – A Brain in a Bottle, Guess Again!, The Mother Lode, Truth Ray