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The Smile – ‘A Light for Attracting Attention’

XL Recordings
Radiohead, Atoms for Peace, And so I Watch You from Afar, Gomez
Release Date
May 13, 2022
XL Recordings
Art/Progressive Rock/Post Punk/Electronica/Afrobeats

Over the last 30 and a bit years, Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood have been at the forefront of the Alt. Rock movement not only as being two of Radiohead, but as solo and collaborative artists elsewhere. Side projects, film work, Neo-classical; they have applied their individual and collective oblique take on Rock music into many and varied directions, and have been consistently really good at it. Don’t you just hate people like that?

With The Smile, they are joined by Tom Skinner, the drummer for Avant-Garde Jazz-fusionists “Sons of Kemmet”. In all and absolute honesty he is no worse or better than Radiohead’s Phil Selway; he just does it differently. Between them they bring a host of new and purposely written new material, and somewhat surprisingly they also bring back “Skirting on the Surface”; a track previously appearing as a live track for Radiohead, and also Thom’s other side project Atoms for Peace (with the mega-talented Nigel Godrich).

Elsewhere on this debut record we find lots of beautifully constructed songs that sound and feel very much like, well actually sound and feel exactly like a modern-era Radiohead album. If this had their name on it with a press release saying “follow up to “A Moon Shaped pool” you would have no reason to doubt it whatsoever. Is that a bad thing? Not even one iota. This is an album that fans and devotees of the more introspective side of Alt. Rock will simply adore and play to death. Those who like things a bit more “Spiky” are equally well catered for too; “You Will Never Work in Television Again” is as abrasive and lyrically dark as anything in their collective back-catalogues.

The thing is, nothing Thom Yorke puts his voice to will ever not be associated with, or directly compared to Radiohead. He’s just so distinctive with his playing style on both guitar and piano/keys as he is with his unique vocal delivery. This is such a consistent and strong record; it makes you wonder what could possibly be expected from the long-awaited next Radiohead album. Here, Thom and Johnny operating as “The Smile” assimilate another being, and its uniqueness has been added to the collective.

"A very, very good Alt. Rock album; it would be a very good Radiohead album"

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