If The Smile keep delivering music this great, maybe the desire for a Radiohead reunion will disappear completely.
The Smile doesn’t just feel like any old side project. The band consists of arguably the two best components of the most important band of the last thirty years: Radiohead singer Thom Yorke and guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Johnny Greenwood, along with Sons of Kemet's drummer Tom Skinner.
The announcement of the project certainly did raise some eyebrows in 2022, the new band working with long term Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich on debut A Light For Attracting Attention. And it was quite frankly one of the best records of the year.
In some respects, it felt like a Radiohead album in everything but name. Desolate vocals, ominous string sections, understated funk and a general sense of anxiety – The Smile appeared to have the lot.
Despite Radiohead drummer Phil Segway revealing a return could on the cards in 2024, it was instead - perhaps surpringly - The Smile who returned again for album number two. Surely their second outing couldn't be as good as the first? Well, it's actually even better. Thom and Johnny's best work in almost two decades (since 2007's In Rainbows), in fact.
Their sophomore album Wall Of Eyes is a collection of songs which combine the individual talents of each member to stunning effect. Despite the 45-minute length, the new album features only eight tracks, allowing each song to breathe and go on an adventure. A completely unpredictable listen from track to track, full of rhythmic changes and songs which meander between hopeful and ominous sounds. Honestly, I was completely gripped from start to finish!
A few highlights include: the title track opener which has Yorke’s ethereal vocals meet mysterious strings, meandering between dreamy and threatening. Meanwhile, on 'Bending Hectic’ the singer describes a car crash in the Italian countryside, beginning as dreamy folk before screaming strings build tension and a crashing, epic conclusion (‘A Day In the Life’, anyone?).
‘Read the Room’ with its high pitched guitar and lullaby-esque chorus and the smooth electronic of ‘Teleharmonic’ channels In Rainbows-era Radiohead was another that stood out. But to be honest, the whole album is outstanding so to only highlight a few tracks is perhaps doing it a disservice.
Maybe we’re not as desperate for a new Radiohead album as we thought. If The Smile keep delivering music this good, maybe the desire for the main event will disappear completely.