Well, we’re in the year 2022 and Thom Yorke is still going strong and making consistently great music. From the last Radiohead album A Moon Shaped Pool in 2016, to the incredibly eerie 2018 soundtrack to the film Suspiria, Thom has been hitting all the right notes with his music. Jonny Greenwood, since the release of A Moon Shaped Pool, has released official soundtracks to the following films: Phantom Thread, You Were Never Really Here, Spencer and The Power of the Dog. An impressive array of incredibly poetic soundtracks that capture the mood and tone of their respective films. Tom Skinner is the drummer for one of my favourite jazz groups Sons of Kemet, with their most recent album Black to the Future being their most complete work to date. He has various solo works as well. Together, they have combined as The Smile, a name that doesn’t reflect it’s usual charm, instead providing a more deceiving, sinister energy aimed at the scumbags in parliament and within the Tory party. Thom has always been an environmentalist, and has always provided a socially conscious message throughout his music. Their debut album as a group is titled A Light for Attracting Attention and is a beautiful body of work that captures the raw honesty and beauty of a Radiohead ‘side project’. Don’t get me wrong, The Smile is completely its own thing, and the album sounds complete, and is an impressive first experiment.
The synth-heavy opener “The Same” is haunting and overpowering, with the drum grooves carrying the pulse of the track. Thom complements that with chilling lyrics, pleading that the government treats everyone the same. It’s a fitting title for such a powerful message. It’s truly a strong opener, and ones that leads us into the world of their music. What follows is this groovy, menacing guitar-led track, with Tom Skinner doing an amazing job with a weird time signature on the drum’s rhythms. The heavy, punkish energy on “You Will Never Work In Television” is intense, with Thom’s abstract lyrics reminding me for some reason of the 1985 film Brazil in its weird imagery. “Pana-Vision features these haunting piano keys, and strings from the London Contemporary Orchestra. It’s a truly chilling track and one of the standouts for me. “The Smoke” has an infectious bassline, and the drumming and incredible tuba notes makes for an incredible listen. It makes sense for there to be more prominent jazz undertones throughout the album, I’m sure Tom Skinner’s brought some influence to the sound on the album. The warm and inviting “Speech Bubbles” is stunning, with the subtle guitar groove, strings and drumming, that paints each groove with an incredible groove. It contrasts the themes of the track, with the lyrics being a bit darker than the overall mood. Next, “Thin Thing”, one of the clear standouts of the album. The energy of those guitar rhythms are incredible, and the track builds in intensity as the song progresses. The aura of “Open The Floodgates” with it’s synth and piano-led melodies. Thom’s incredibly warm voice just hugs the track tightly. In moments of despair, Thom’s voice sure does sound reassuring. The angelic, acoustic beauty of “Free In the Knowledge” sounds liberating. “A Hairdryer” is another highlight for me. The groovy guitar riffs with Thom singing “Look at all the pretty lights” is pretty great. “Waving a White Flag” is this synth-heavy track that sounds very Kraftwerk. The pulsating “We Don’t Know What Tomorrow Brings” brings high-paced guitar leads with synths, with intense drumming that help capture the urgency of the track. This leads to the emotive and stunning closer “Skrting On the Surface”. The guitar leads, brass and and string instrumentation are just spellbinding, and Thom’s delicate vocals add to the pure emotion and sonic euphoria of the track. Another one of my favourites, and a great way to conclude the album.
With A Light for Attracting Attention, The Smile have crafted one of the most beautiful, melodic and poignant albums of the year so far. The layered and textured body of work is impeccably sequenced, thorough in its production and delicate in its emotion. The socio-political messages Thom expresses via his lyrics are fueled both with rage, yet despair, and sonically follows an urgency that they emote so well through sound. It’s an expressive, intricate and layered body of work that is impressive as their debut. Listen to The Smile’s new album A Light for Attracting Attention below via Bandcamp and don’t forget to support!