Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow
On September twenty-second, the modern music blogosphere was all-abuzz over a photo Radiohead’s Thom Yorke posted on his tumblr, of a mysterious white vinyl record on a turntable. The photo was later tweeted by longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, just in case anyone had missed it. Rumors began to swirl, as it was also well known then that Radiohead had been back in the studio, recording a new album to follow up 2011’s King of Limbs. A few days later however, Yorke and Godrich released a joint statement revealing that Thom Yorke was releasing his second solo album via a bit torrent site and that it would cost only six dollars, mere pocket change for most people, let alone anyone curious and internet savvy enough to click a few buttons
The statement also went on to tell people how easy it is to release a record in this fashion, thus “Enabling those people who make either music, video, or any other kind of digital content to sell it themselves. Bypassing the self elected gate-keepers. If it works anyone can do this exactly as we have done.” That’s all good and well if you’re a member of say, Radiohead. Though most schmucks trying to break into the music business need the money and connections the so-called “gate-keepers” can offer.
The real troubling sentiment of Yorke and Godrich’s joint statement seems to be the putting out of the idea that making “art” of any sort should be a seamless free and easy process, though the idea seems to have infested many artists within the music business. The hard truth is that making “good art” is a painstaking process, which requires sacrifice, hard work, and raw talent.
Regardless of the concept behind this release, to speak of the album musically, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes is pretty straightforward and unsurprisingly comes off sounding much like a collection of Radiohead outtakes and B-Sides. “Guess Again” opens with signature slow and lazy piano playing, minimal drum machine beats and ghostly machine-fed feedback, and sounds as though it could have been recorded during the Kid A sessions. The same goes for “Interference” with its mellow and reverberating synths, and Yorke’s ghostly overdubbed falsetto vocals floating in and out of the background. Ever the lyrical soothsayer, Yorke conveys his particularly apocalyptic point of view with lines like “In the future we will change our numbers/ And lose contact/ In the future, leaves will turn brown/ When we want them/ And I don’t have the right/ To interfere.”
The rest of Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes is a mixed bag of tricks, though none of them come off sounding fully formed. The semi-dancey “Motherlode” is a flimsy attempt at straight techno, and the strange and annoying “There is No Ice (For My Drink)” is a collage of noise and mumbled vocals, and comes off sounding like the score to a college filmmaker’s first experimental movie. “Pink Section” and “Nose Grows Some,” the final two tracks of the album, largely follow suit.
All in all, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes is a must have for any die-hard Radiohead fan, though the casual fan, despite the low price tag and ease of purchase, may want to hold onto their money until Yorke and his band mates have something to sell that’s worth buying.