ALBUM REVIEW: The Smile, A Light For Attracting Attention
Updated: Jun 28, 2022
The Smile are a Radiohead offshoot project with just as much style as the original band. It consists of RH members Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, as well as Sons of Kemet percussionist Tom Skinner, with production from Nigel Godrich. In comparison to later-stage Radiohead records like The King of Limbs and A Moon Shaped Pool, the music here is much more jammy and takes more advantage of a wide-screen stereo sound. If you’re listening to this in one headphone or a shitty Bluetooth speaker, we’re not really hearing the same album. The more crisp you can get these grooves, solos and drum hits to sound the better, because these elements are the true star at play. “The Opposite” and “The Smoke” are perfect examples of this, a cacophonous sound will start in your right ear before a slick bassline will travel back and forth. I have no idea how to play bass and I found myself pretending to quiet a bit while listening to A Light for Attracting Attention.
Nothing on this album comes across as one-dimensional; the tracklist begins to diversify itself as it moves along. “You Will Never Work In Television” and “Thin Thing” are rowdy and mathematical, reminiscent of some of their best albums like In Rainbows. The former has these insane lyrics like “Fear not my love, he's a fat fucking mist”. At first glance, like their “Paranoid Android”, it seems like word salad. With recent revelations about the evils of Hollywood and the cult-like mentality of it, a phrase like “Let the lights down low, bunga bunga or you'll/Never work in television again” makes a whole lot more sense. Slower and more reverbed tracks like “Pana-vision” and “Skrting On The Surface” point more toward A Moon Shaped Pool’s dreary mercurial flow, while the greatest offering here, “Free In The Knowledge” is an eternal gem from the Radiohead vaults. Like “House Of Cards” or “True Love Waits”, “Free In The Knowledge” seems like it’s been hidden for 20 years. All aspects from the chorus (“We were fumbling around/But we won't get caught like that/Soldiers on our backs”) to the assured acoustic guitar passages are perfectly executed, rivaling some of the best actual Radiohead material. This is a real sonic change of pace for Yorke and Greenwood that takes a classic sound and re-envisions it for a darker time.