The collective rage on finding that surprise U2 album beside your treasured mp3s seemed akin to rolling over in bed one morning to find Bono tickling your neck with his lips. Yet as a result of the haste to obliterate ‘Songs Of Innocence’ to waste basket dust, the music itself was barely dissected.
Much has been written on this, just as with Beyoncé and her husband’s recent unorthodox methods of getting their albums out into the world. But the release mechanics of Thom Yorke’s ‘Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes’ do represent a game changer.
Sites that seem to champion independence, like Bandcamp, slice a share from artists’ profits, albeit not as much as some of the digital giants. But the BitTorrent model Yorke’s using – though it has been done before – does indeed cut out the “self-elected gate-keepers”, establishing a closer link between artist and fan.
A round of applause, then, for swerving the fat cats, but is Yorke’s music as revolutionary as his methods? Well, no. Basically. But perhaps it’s unfair that we expect so much from this man. Though, he does do it to himself, doesn’t he? (Sorry, I put that 'gag' there - 'Bends'-y ed)
Aside from smashing technological barriers, Yorke proves on this album that he’s still capable of a beautiful monotony that, at points, shares DNA with beloved Radiohead classics.
‘Tomorrow's Modern Boxes’ is grim urban soul, an underworld of alienated falsetto, glum swells and egg carton-covered percussion. At times it’s sketchy and frail, at others decidedly defiant.
Yet the tomorrow that Yorke’s painting isn't all gloomy, since the end of the album lurches toward something resembling cheery synth-pop. ‘The Mother Lode’ is a clear highlight – an icy widescreen number, along with ‘Truth Ray’, which beams out forceful synth notes.
What will the modern boxes of the future contain? Who the hell knows, but they'll be a joy to uncover and open – however that may be.
Words: Felicity Martin
- - -
- - -