Sound: Thom Yorke may always be better known for his work with his band, Radiohead, but his attention lately has all been focused on his solo work. Even the band Atoms For Peace, which he also fronts, was initially formed as a live band to perform his solo material, though it soon became something in its own right. So, for better or worse, Thom will be known for his work with Radiohead - possibly never even escaping being known as the guy who sings "Creep," though his modern musical contribution isn't even in the same category. The album, "Tomorrow's Modern Boxes," was released by Thom Yorke as a type of experiment, according to interviews, to test how effective the "pay-gate" option is with BitTorrent in order to find a way to distribute his own music without a third party. The album was made available for $6 USD, or £4. In addition to the music on the album, the download also includes a music video for the song, "A Brain in a Bottle." The album contains 8 tracks with an approximate runtime of 38 minutes.
The album opens with the track "Brain in a Bottle," which is the closest thing to a "lead single" the album has, with an accompanying music video. The song itself is built around some fairly straightforward electronic music, with a few flourishes and some of Thom's signature falsetto. "Guess Again!" is carried by some low-bit handclapping samples and a slow and meandering line on piano. I don't really get the exclamation point at the end of the song title, as the track remains pretty laid back. "Interference" is the shortest song on the album, coming in at under 2 minutes and 50 seconds. "The Mother Lode" is mainly a rhythmic pattern with a tone being interrupted rhythmically and Thom's voice once again in falsetto and running through the whole song. "Truth Ray" would have to be my favorite track just for the weird melody running through it with the percussion repeating itself over and over… it got me swaying in my seat a little bit when listening to it. "There Is No Ice (For My Drink)" is definitely the longest (at about 7 minutes) and most "epic" track on the album. There are some definite high points of the track, but other periods of the track are just boring. "Pink Section" is a fairly short track, just a touch longer than "Interference," and mostly made of some mutilated and heavily processed vocals (aaahs) with a few little percussion lines and a recurring jangly piano melody. "Pink Section" kind of melds into the closing track, "Nose Grows Some," which has vinyl crackling through the entire track and some simple melodies joined by one of Thom's better vocal performances from the album. I liked a few of the tracks, but I wasn't overly impressed with the album as a whole. I expect more from Thom Yorke. // 7
Lyrics: Thom Yorke has been voted onto "Best Vocalist" lists all over the place - do I think he deserves that type of praise? I feel like he is a good vocalist who is exceptional at vocally expressing some emotions. I think his falsetto is outstanding. The problem with this album, is I don't get the impression he's really trying too hard on the vocals. It seems like he kind of threw this album together, and except for a few outstanding moments, the vocals were rushed as well. The lyrics were not a whole lot better, for the most part. Here are some vocals from the track "Brain in a Bottle" from the album: "Oh what's that seeking us/ still hands are gonna talk to us/ looked in our eye, in your eye/ seagull laugh and pick the bones/ the entity I wrestle to the ground/ looked in the eye, looked in the eye/ Chill/ some teasing and then bring/ myself in too/ it's like I've forgotten you/ think I'm gonna go to pieces now/ come and fall in (in love) the dark/ chill/ Think I'm gonna slow my dance to you/ agree on letting you/ and so I'm punched/ I just keep bouncing back/ come out fighting back." // 7
Overall Impression: There are people who decided they love this album before they ever heard it - I was actually in this category, but it definitely changed my mind after listening to it. This album sounds unfinished - it sounds like everything was only partway thought out and recorded, then with the rough structures existing, Thom's guy (good ol' Nigel) just "produced" the album to completion. The vocals are occasionally good, but more often sound sloppy and lazy. I think this album is either the product of Thom just wanting to test releasing something through BitTorrent Pay-Gate, or it is the work of a deluded rockstar who has become lazy, or possibly some combination of both. Honestly, I'm hoping he just released the album to test Pay-Gate instead of it being a genuine effort, or even a lazy effort. I hope it was just rushed. I did enjoy parts of "Truth Ray," "Nose Grows Some" and "There Is No Ice (For My Drink)," and the price of $6 USD is probably fair for just those three tracks. // 7
- Brandon East (c) 2014