While the world is patiently (read: chomping at the fucking bit) waiting for the next Radiohead release, Thom Yorke decided that it was an opportune time to release his second solo album. Titled Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, Yorke pulled a fast one on the musical world, releasing the record with no advance warning. There was no pre-release buildup, no interviews, no press cycle. Nothing. Instead, Boxes simply showed up one morning as a BitTorrent bundle, waiting to be consumed by hordes of rabid fans. And while new music from Yorke is always welcome (no matter which moniker he uses) Boxes comes across more as a prelude of what’s to come rather than a stand-alone piece of work.
The feeling that Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes is simply Yorke’s version of an appetizer before Radiohead serves up a full five-course meal cannot be understated. The album is a concise, 8-song set of Yorke’s trademark falsetto croon and the combination of skittish electronic programming with traditional instrumentation that Yorke has become known for. Boxes also fairly both sides of the Yorke spectrum. The accessible, pop-oriented sound of “A Brain In A Bottle” is stunning in its simplicity and features a vocal melody that’s bound to stay stuck in your head for days, while the abstract “There Is No Ice (For My Drink)” sounds more akin to a dub remix of an already existing song and at over seven minutes in length, it’s easy to get lost in the bass-heavy dirge.
As enjoyable as the majority of Boxes is, it only increases the anticipation for a new Radiohead release. The piano-driven “Guess Again!” could easily be a continuation of Radiohead’s 2001 track “Pyramid Song” and the thunderous plodding bassline in “The Mother Lode” feels like it was taken from Colin Greenwood’s scrap heap. There should be no surprises (see what I did there?) that Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes has a tint of Radiohead-esque flair. After all, Yorke is largely thought to be the catalyst for the groups branching out into avant-garde, IDM-influenced territory. But unlike Yorke’s first solo endeavor, 2006’s The Eraser and to a lesser extent, his Atoms For Peace project, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes showcases Yorke’s strengths as a songwriter while simultaneously highlighting his need for collaboration. But until Radiohead brings dinner to the table in 2015, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes is a fine starter course and should whet the appetite of fans waiting for the main course.