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REVIEW: Thom Yorke - "Tomorrow's Modern Boxes" (2014)

Published on If IMF had decided to use melancholy as a currency, Thom Yorke would have become one of the richest persons in the world.

However, unlike Radiohead’s instant classic albums “The Bends”, “OK Computer” and “Kid A” that were induced by a global pre-millenial angst, “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes” proves that in 2014 melancholy could simply be localized. Having started with a logical fear for his children in the album’s second track “Guess Again!” Thom ultimately narrows his melancholy down to the size of a whiskey glass. The latter refers to the track “There Is No Ice (For My Drink)” — the most techno-driven and stylish piece on the whole record.

Its most eerie piece (“Truth Ray”) comes immediately after the midpoint of the album — the sound of “a rose coloured evil ray” really burns right through flesh to the bone — and Yorke keeps repeating in a frenzy: “All my life is sin, sin, sin.” The idea of finishing the album with a half-jesting “Nose Grows Some” in this context looks like the best possible option. It is not surprising — strong album closers have already become some kind of Radiohead’s trademark.

The main weakness of Thom Yorke’s second solo album can be described in three words: it’s nothing new. When in 2007 Radiohead released their seventh studio album “In Rainbows” via a pay-what-you-want model, it literally blew up the music industry. Releasing “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes” as a BitTorrent bundle with a pay-gate (at a fixed price though), Thom Yorke looks like the magician who once revealed the secret of his “cups and balls” trick to the audience and then decided to repeat it.

Same with the musical component: album’s rhythmic patterns sometimes resemble a pastiche. In “A Brain In a Bottle” and “The Mother Lode” we can clearly hear the elements of the famous “cavernous” drums and “wandering” bass from Burial’s “Untrue”, while “Interference” and “Pink Section” were obviously inspired by Aphex Twin’s “Selected Ambient Works”.

Yes, Yorke is no longer a visionary and prefers delving into steampunk to expanding musical boundaries. But it is hard not to admit that this kind of conservatism suits him like nothing else. After all, a gentleman never talks about his tailor, but old tweed jacket will always find its place in his wardrobe. 


Image credits: tomorrowsmodernboxes.com
This article was written on 10 November 2014 as an assignment in Arts and Culture Journalism module at City University London

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