The Smile: A Light For Attracting Attention [Album Review]

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The Smile
A Light For Attracting Attention
XL Recordings [2022]

Thom Yorke will never tire of writing music. He might get “bored” of focusing on a single project for a while but, he just finds somewhere else to focus his creative output. Cue Glastonbury 2021 and the debut of Thom Yorke, Johnny Greenwood, and Tom Skinner (Sons Of Kemet) as The Smile. Going in, I wanted to be a little ignorant of the project, I didn’t want to seek out the live performances and only would listen to the singles that had been released. I’m glad I waited to be surprised because their debut album A Light For Attracting Attention sounds a good amount like Radiohead-that’s not a bad thing. 

The moment “The Same” starts you already start to feel a little uneasy. The opener carries a dread that bounces, beeps, and boops with a Yorke that echoes through the void. Following song, “The Opposite” has Skinner provide a very suitable Selway replacement with bouncy backbeats as off-kilter guitars blare like klaxons. “Pana-Vision” goes eerie and airy with no guitars in sight. That song feels like it has a place among the b-sides of A Moon Shaped Pool. While I was excited for what was in store after the announcement of the group, “The Smoke” is what caught my attention the most. The groovy bass-line danceably shambles like a zombie while Yorke’s signature bray sings about bursting into flames. 

What really makes A Light For Attracting Attention a captivating and curious album is its’ ability to transcend time. One of the album’s top songs “Thin Thing” clocks in at about 4:30 but, its’ constant acceleration, deceleration, and busyness keeps it captivating until the end. The album’s sleeper hit “A Hairdryer”-the second longest song on the album-skitters nervously with fast paced drums, uneasy angular guitars, and a real Hail to the Thief energy that really works in its’ favor. The song continues to get interesting as Yorke exclaims “Look at all the pretty lights.” In what’s to be a fan pleasing moment for many, The Smile pulls a Radiohead A Moon Shaped Pool Moment. “True Love Waits” floated around the Radiohead catalogue until it was nailed down to end A Moon Shaped Pool. The Smile end their album with a song that’s been kicking around since the In Rainbows sessions “Skirting on the Surface.” Johnny’s arpeggios, Yorke’s airy croon, the rise and fall of brass, and Skinner’s tactile drum bounce clean this song up and truly make it a Smile owned song.

Now, I know what you might be thinking, why couldn’t we just get another Radiohead album? The Smile’s A Light For Attracting Attention is already basically there. Or, of course when you hear the record it is really hard not to compare it to Radiohead. I think honestly, Thom, Johnny, and Tom wanted a bit more freedom. By not calling this a Radiohead album it bucks a certain typecast that fans expect. Plus, adding Tom Skinner to the mix gives Thom and Johnny more musicians to play off of and experiment with. It’s the reason that this was one of my most anticipated albums this year. The album comes with a certain aggression that we haven’t seen in a Radiohead album in a while. It’s this quality that makes it a beautiful diversion and an album that will continuously be played throughout the year even if not all the tracks are winners. It’s still consistently great and lends itself to many end of the year lists.

“The Smoke” / “Thin Thing” / “A Hairdryer”

Radiohead / Foals / Ultraista

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Christopher Tahy

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