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Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes

I Wanna Taranna Pt. 18: Sonic Boom #1 Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes

Honestly, I shouldn’t like Thom Yorke’s solo stuff (or most of radiohead since the first few efforts, either). I don’t usually go out for blips and bleeps and electronic jiggery pokery. For some reason, though, I find these things oddly captivating as exceptions to the rule.

I’d never seen a copy of this in the wild anywhere before, and this was a brand new copy – one of the only discs on this trip for which I paid full price (I believe it was $16.99, something like that). I already own The Eraser, so this was a fairly easy addition to the collection. Also (of course) Nigel Godrich produces here, and Stanley Donwood did the artwork. So. Let’s see what it holds!

Straight off, I threw this on as I was cleaning up late one night, with the volume low as the kids were asleep, and the album just disappeared. All I heard as I moved around was the repeating bass lines and the electronic drums and the moan of his vocals without making out the words. Unimpressed, for a second spin I threw on the good headphones and was rewarded with much more clarity and all the little things this album holds that I’d missed in using it as background music. Clearly, this is one that requires more of your attention.

At only 8 tracks, it may seem short, but there’s enough packed into those few tracks to make it full. Besides, I don’t think I could take 15 tracks of this stuff in one sitting, so I was grateful that he knew when (and how) to speak eloquently, and when to shut the hell up. 

To me this sounds like someone (if you can imagine a sound doing this) suffering some form of anxiety and possibly even agoraphobia, shut in and relieved to be introverted, solitarily expressing themselves in the most beautiful ways with moments of clarity and calm so strong as to bely what afflicts them. So much so, in fact, that one could be lead to believe that there is an easing of tensions, a lifting and a movement towards feeling better. 

This record is, for lack of a stated mandate, a journey. Yes, the skittery beats and washing synths and textures are here. Yes, Jonny Greenwood appears on one track. Yes, it’s dark, slow and creepy at times, energetic at others, but it’s always stark and beautiful and engaging, and always moving forward. 

You’d have to be a Yorke fan to dig this, I figure, but I am one, and this record hasn’t changed that for me. I get the feeling that it will continue to grow on me more and more with subsequent listens and that’s a gift in itself.

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