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Well Thom, you've done it again. In the pantheon of surprise-givers you're now firmly up there with Cilla Black and Jeremy Beadle. Esteemed company indeed. Picture the scene: it's 3:49pm on Friday afternoon, work is winding down, evening plans are being hatched and all of a sudden a link is shared by a Facebook-friend of mine (hello) which announces Mr. Yorke is releasing a new album called Tomorrow's Modern Boxes. Ten minutes later I've charged £3.69 to my credit card, I'm listening to track one and have opened the window to throw the aforementioned evening plans out of it.



'A Brain in A Bottle' creeps up on you; a heavy, pulsing bass which gives way to some of that snare, break-beat-type stuff I guess we're all accustomed to now. Then, at precisely 52 seconds in, Thom's falsetto (which we're even more accustomed to) drops. Or rises. It starts is what I mean and it seems to signal the beginning of something special. A quick Google search tells me the opening line is "Oh, what's that seeking us?" and who am I to argue? I've played it countless (27) times now and I'm still torn between that and 'Sinking'.



I've heard the album in my room through speakers, straight out of my laptop, in my headphones and from my phone in a glass when showering (try it). The start gets me every time. It's a brilliant opener which means the back-end of the album will forever suffer - I don't know about you, but when an album begins so brilliantly I'm always starting it from there so if something other comes along I'll stop listening, go about my day and then, when I return to the album, I'll begin from Track One again.



'Guess Again!' creeps up on you too. Quiet, considered ivory-tinkling building up to full volume before a more-dulcet Thom hums-cum-sings over some hand claps. The exclamation of the title seems largely inappropriate given the feel of the song and after the smash-bang of the opener crashed me back down to Earth. CRASS (BUT NECESSARY) METAPHOR ALERT: It's as if the party got started early and then he ushered everyone out shortly after.



'Interference' continues in much the same vein with Thom (apparently) lamenting how he doesn't have the right to interfere. I don't believe him. He burst onto my Friday and disrupted everything. Where tracks two and three combine to stultify whatever track one appeared to start, track four ('The Mother Lode') comes along and continues where the opener left off. I've heard the album tonnes of times now and 'The Mother Lode' is definitely my favourite. There are several payoffs contained within it; the 'drop' (how I hate that term) at 1:04 and then that bass bit at 2:34 serve as two examples.



And so we move onto Side B/2/whatever. Having downloaded BitTorrent specifically to get hold of this album there are no sides as such - it's simply eight tracks in numerical order. Maybe it's the OCD in me but when an album has eight tracks I'm dividing them into two (and halving them seems appropriate). I daresay the vinyl will be split like that so there. One thing: if we were to judge each side independently it's easy to make a case for Side A/1/whatever being far superior to the other. Having said this I'm experienced in Yorke's produce enough to know that giving time to those tracks you might have initially overlooked will often reap dividends. Ten plays in I suddenly saw/heard/realised/appreciated the beauty in 'Truth Ray' where before it just wasn't registering.



I could talk about interpreting the album's 'meaning', its apparent considerations to truth ('Truth Ray') and lies ('Nose Grows Some'), but I won't. What's the point? This is an album I didn't even get the chance to look forward to. It was announced and then I heard it. The immediacy of the 21st century often appals me, but when things like this happen you find yourself hooraying for it.



'There Is No Ice (For My Drink)' instantly reminded me of 'The Gloaming' (massively underrated Radiohead song) but the clipped, chopped-up vocals make it sound more like an experiment than a song. I'm happy to be a guinea pig (will these metaphors never end?), but while there might be no ice (for his drink), there isn't much going for it either. It's the weakest track by far and one I imagine would cause many of my friends to ask "what the fuck is this?" were I to put it on in their presence.



Having said that I like how it seamlessly rattles on through into 'Pink Section' which sounds like an old recording of something; all fuzzy and furry with lint on the stylus. It took me a few listens before I 'got' this song but get it I now do, though I could see why people wouldn't. The latter part of it springs forth and then retracts over and over in a wonderful loop which ended up making my day before - again - seamlessly heading into the final track 'Nose Grows Some'.



Radiohead and Yorke have all too often chosen the wrong song to end an album on. What made them finish with 'Videotape' and not 'Reckoner' I will never know and the less said about using 'Separator' as a climax the better (with apologies to 'Street Spirit (Fade Out)' and 'A Wolf at the Door'). 'Nose Grows Some' is another poor choice, one which left me largely underwhelmed. But, as with much of Yorke's output, the album rewards repeated listens. Perseverance has always been a hallmark of the devoted listener (durr) and with good reason; the majority of the tracks I initially didn't love are now my babies. But 'Nose Grows Some' is just never going to be up there with the rest. One wonders which tracks Yorke binned to make way for this one. And why.



The truth is that Tomorrow's Modern Boxes is unlikely to convert anyone not already part of The Thom Yorke Fan Club and, worse, it might even turn some people off. Not me though. Call me bias, blinkered, a metaphor-abuser or even a poor album reviewer (please don't), but I was extremely grateful when news of the album was plonked onto my social networks as I imagine thousands of others were. It's not a radical upheaval and it's nothing especially new - at least as far as Yorke's output is concerned - but then it doesn't have to be; he's been pioneering an often-unique sound for so long now that I'm just happy to have some other songs to listen to.



Six dollars goes a long way. But it (thankfully) won't fix something that's not broken.

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