The second solo album from Radiohead front-man Thom Yorke takes up where 2006 debut The Eraser left off. Tomorrow's Modern Boxes is more of the glitchy, eerie electronica that featured on his first solo outing. It is light years away from the innovative rock guitar sound of Radiohead during their most creative period in the mid-nineties. Ok Computer stands as their crowning achievement, an absolute masterpiece that took rock music to a whole new level. But follow up Kid A seemed like a reaction to and a rejection of their rock roots - the critics loved it but it was an album that polarised opinion, even amongst their most ardent fans. In many ways, everything Yorke has been involved in since then has been an extension of Kid A - the guitars have been traded in for laptops as Yorke seeks inspiration from very different sources.
Tomorrow's Modern Boxes clocks in with just eight songs over a lean 38 minutes - when the final notes have died away it is hard to escape the feeling that the whole thing is just a little underwhelming. There is nothing particularly stirring or inventive here, nothing that any one of a number of other electronic artists isn't doing already, and doing a whole lot better. Yorke's voice has always been such a potent weapon; moments of the shiver inducing beauty of songs like Exit Music (For a Movie) are non -existent on this record; the vocals are just another element of these technically well constructed tracks.
Highlights include 'Guess Again!' with the contrast of the harsh beats and the warm glow of the piano working particularly well while 'Interference' impresses, probably because it is the most Radiohead- like song on the album.
'No Ice (for my drink)' regurgitates similar sounds to those found on his solo debut effort but whereas that record retained Yorke's keen sense of melody and song structure, Tomorrow's Modern Boxes focuses more on sonic detail, and is none the better for it.
Throughout the nineties and the noughties, Yorke cut an increasingly surly figure as his barely disguised disgust for the trappings of fame became increasingly evident. Tomorrow's Modern Boxes marks a further retreat from the sound that made Yorke and his band-mates reluctant rock stars. It is music that induces little more than a shrug and a sigh, a slight and inconsequential collection of songs that will do well to survive in the memory beyond the end of year polls.
Review by Paul Page | TWO POINT FIVE STARS