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    The Smile: A Light for Attracting Attention review – Radiohead spinoff offers no alarms, some surprises

    Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood team with Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner for a debut that may not be head-spinningly different, but is still exceptional

    Alexis Petridis's album of the week

    The Smile: A Light for Attracting Attention review – Radiohead spinoff offers no alarms, some surprises

    Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood team with Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner for a debut that may not be head-spinningly different, but is still exceptional

    Alexis Petridis

    Thu 12 May 2022 11.30 BST

    88 A

    s with any side-project or solo album by a member of a celebrated band, the first question prompted by the Smile’s debut is: why? There are plenty of reasonable stock answers: an opportunity to do something entirely different; a surfeit of material that either couldn’t be fitted into the schedule of a major band or was perhaps received with something less than enthusiasm by its other members; an invigorating chance to play with different musicians. These are categories that virtually every Radiohead offshoot thus far fits into, from Jonny Greenwood’s award-winning film scores and excursions into modern classical music to Thom Yorke’s solo albums, to Yorke and longstanding Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich’s band Atoms for Peace.

    The artwork for A Light for Attracting Attention

    The Smile, however, present more of a conundrum. There have been no accompanying band interviews and little in the way of advance information: Yorke, Greenwood and drummer Tom Skinner – best known as a member of jazz quartet Sons of Kemet – just appeared, playing in what looked like a cowshed during the 2021 Glastonbury livestream. To compound any questions about exactly what was going on here, where one project ends and another begins, or what made this different from Radiohead beyond the personnel, they played one song, Skrting on the Surface, which had already been performed by both Radiohead and Atoms for Peace.

    Said questions go largely unanswered by A Light for Attracting Attention, on which Skrting on the Surface reappears. There’s no getting around the fact it sounds exactly like Radiohead: more so than Yorke’s impressionistic, sketchy solo albums, more so than the Afrobeat-infused Atoms for Peace. A lot of their trademark sounds are present and correct: eerie, unsettling electronica (The Same), off-beam piano ballads along the lines of Pyramid Song (Pana-vision), songs where the melody is carried more by the bass or guitar than Yorke’s keening vocals (the brilliant, anxiously funky The Smoke).

    The Smile: You Will Never Work in Television Again – video

    So are their lyrical preoccupations. There is environmental catastrophe: The Smoke’s uneasy attempts to ignore the coming environmental apocalypse feel like a distant cousin of Hail to the Thief’s 2+2=5, while Speech Bubbles deals with the after-effects of this approach. There is information overload, and there are ample helpings of paranoia and disgust. You Will Never Work in Television Again rages at a Jeffrey Epstein-ish character: “He’s a fat fucking mist – young bones spat out, girls slitting their wrists.” If you wanted, you could suggest that Skinner’s jazz chops affect the sound a little – The Opposite opens with a twisting breakbeat in which the accents never fall in the way you’d expect; he responds to the convoluted, percussive guitar arpeggios of Thin Thing with a pattern that’s simultaneously complex and deft – but in absolute fairness to Phil Selway, it’s not like Radiohead have struggled through their career with a drummer artlessly clobbering away at the back.

    You could argue with some justification that there’s nothing head-spinningly different here, but you would have a far harder time arguing that what is here isn’t exceptionally good. If the tenor is as gloomy as ever, genuinely beautiful moments abound: the point, a minute into Speech Bubbles, when a string section slowly rises out of the electronic fog; the lushly cinematic orchestration that appears midway through Pana-vision. Ironically, it reserves one of its loveliest melodies for Open the Floodgates, a song that appears to excoriate a certain type of Radiohead fan (or indeed rock critic) who thinks the band went desperately off-piste as the 90s turned into the 00s and have never been quite as good since: “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus … we want the good bits, without your bullshit.”

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    More ironically still, it’s followed by precisely what said fan/critic has been waiting for over the last 20-plus years. Free in the Knowledge is an exquisite acoustic ballad directly in the lineage of Fake Plastic Trees: the kind of thing a less adventurous, more straightforward or rapacious band might have filled OK Computer’s follow-up with. It’s not the only time that A Light for Attracting Attention unexpectedly recalls the bit of Radiohead’s career that Radiohead themselves seldom acknowledge these days. If it’s a huge stretch to suggest that You Will Never Work in Television Again could have appeared on their debut Pablo Honey – it’s too dense and tightly-wound, and features gusts of graveyard-ambience synths and a burst of free-blowing brass – its raging guitars definitely evoke a time when Radiohead seemed like a product of the post-Nevermind age rather than harbingers of a new era.

    Source : www.theguardian.com

    A Light for Attracting Attention by The Smile Reviews and Tracks

    Metacritic Music Reviews, A Light for Attracting Attention by The Smile, The debut full-length release for Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood and Tom Skinner as The Smile was produced by Nigel Godrich....


    by The Smile XL Recordings

    Release Date: May 13, 2022

    Summary Critic Reviews User Reviews Details & Credits Metascore 85 Universal acclaim

    based on 10 Critic Reviews

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    Summary: The debut full-length release for Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood and Tom Skinner as The Smile was produced by Nigel Godrich.

    Follow The Smile on Bandsintown Buy Now Buy on

    Record Label: XL Recordings

    Genre(s): Pop/Rock

    More Details and Credits »


    Positive: 10 out of 10 Mixed: 0 out of 10 Negative: 0 out of 10 Pitchfork May 12, 2022 86

    A Light for Attracting Attention sounds more like a proper Radiohead album than any of the numerous side projects the band’s members have done on their own. ... The Smile spotlights the creative relationship between Yorke and Greenwood like never before.

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    Read full review Paste Magazine May 12, 2022 83

    For now, A Light for Attracting Attention is a versatile beacon for Yorke and Greenwood’s groovier side, and a remarkably assured debut that—let’s be honest—doesn’t really feel like a debut at all.

    All this publication's reviews

    Read full review Beats Per Minute May 13, 2022 83

    As moving as those songs are, The Smile are more intriguing when they shift slightly further away from Yorke and Greenwood’s established palette.

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    Read full review

    New Musical Express (NME)

    May 12, 2022 80

    In cutting some new shapes, this supergroup have been set loose to make some of the most arresting and satisfying music of their careers.

    All this publication's reviews

    Read full review The Guardian May 12, 2022 80

    Were A Light for Attracting Attention actually that day job’s long-awaited follow-up to A Moon Shaped Pool, you wouldn’t be crushed with disappointment, which is far from faint praise. Whatever the future holds for the Smile, their debut album feels like more than an indulgent diversion.

    All this publication's reviews

    Read full review Exclaim May 12, 2022 80

    It's too familiar-sounding to be revelatory, but six years on from A Moon Shaped Pool — the longest-ever break between Radiohead albums — it's a pleasure to hear Yorke and Greenwood's talent undiminished as they hit the sweet spot of their sound.

    All this publication's reviews

    Read full review Rolling Stone May 12, 2022 80

    A Light for Attracting Attention contains some of the songwriters’ most easily enjoyable music in years.

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    The Smile's 'A Light for Attracting Attention': Review

    Music, Film, TV and Political News Coverage


    MAY 12, 2022 10:01AM ET

    Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood Go Off the Clock and Have a Good Time on the Smile’s Debut

    Radiohead’s songwriting nucleus team with jazz drummer Tom Skinner on ‘A Light for Attracting Attention,’ a lower-stakes, jammy album with some of their most straightforward songs in years

    By KORY GROW Facebook Twitter Reddit Email

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    Alex Lake*

    Halfway through A Light for Attracting Attention, the Smile’s debut album, Thom Yorke flashes a smirk: “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus,” he drawls slowly almost without melody over ambient synths and downtempo piano on “Open the Floodgates.” Then he doubles down, whinging, “We want the good bits, without your bullshit, and no heartaches.” These lines are the sorts of gormless heckles he and fellow Smile member Jonny Greenwood have likely heard for decades in their other band, Radiohead, ever since they ventured into more experimental terrain on 1997’s OK Computer. But in the context of the Smile, Yorke’s words sound as sweet as they do ironic (there’s nary a chorus in sight), as Greenwood weaves echoey guitar textures around Yorke’s voice. It’s the two musicians’ version of punching out for the day and jamming.


    Radiohead Side Project the Smile Set Release Date for Debut LP 'A Light for Attracting Attention'

    See Thom Yorke Break Out Radiohead Rarities at Solo Acoustic Concert

    The Smile emerged as Yorke and Greenwood’s Covid lockdown project, an opportunity to work on some tunes without all the pressure of being Radiohead’s Lennon and McCartney or, maybe more accurately, Waters and Gilmour — likely to the chagrin of group’s other three members, since A Light for Attracting Attention contains some of the songwriters’ most easily enjoyable music in years.

    Although the duo hasn’t gone back to writing chorus-forward singles like “Creep” or “High and Dry” or attempted TikTok bids, the songs here feel more concrete than they have on recent Radioheadbangers like A Moon Shaped Pool or The King of Limbs. In addition to obvious shades of Radiohead, the album balances soundtrack composer Greenwood’s interests in contemporary classical music with Philip Glass–like minimalist piano motifs, as well as hints of complex King Crimson guitar lines, jazzy brass arrangements similar to David Bowie’s Blackstar, and motorik Krautrock rhythms rendered sideways by the Smile’s drummer, Tom Skinner, who plays regularly with the jazz group Sons of Kemet. The trio also recruited longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich for the LP, which benefits from smart string and brass and woodwind arrangements.

    Mostly, the album reflects Yorke’s lockdown anxieties with clever musical backdrops that never obscure the songs. “Free in the Knowledge,” the album’s most straightforward tune, juxtaposes verses about feeling “free in the knowledge that one day this will end” over David Gilmour–like acoustic strumming with a hopeful bridge section with shimmering strings over which Yorke sings, “I talked to the face in the mirror … I said it’s time that you deliver, we see through you.” It’s beautiful, affecting, and direct. Similarly, as “Waving a White Flag” grapples with lyrics like “couldn’t get a breath in” and “there has to be a way out,” a fuzzy synth does the heavy lifting with hopeful, comfortably numb chord changes. And on “The Opposite,” they play around with skittery drums, Robert Fripp–like miasmas of guitar, and vocal echoes as Yorke sings, “Can we have the next contestant please in this logical absurdity?”

    As the record uncoils, you can practically hear how the songs become therapy for the musicians as they play around and work through their Covid cabin fever: Yorke commands a surprisingly funky bass riff throughout “The Smoke,” the trio jams in the mind-bending time signature 7/8 on “Pana-Vision,” and Greenwood attempts some elastic guitar lines over skittish percussion on “A Hairdryer.” By lowering the stakes for themselves, Yorke and Greenwood sound like they’ve been set free, unencumbered by out-arting themselves, a lesson that they’d be smart to bring back to their main gig. Yorke and Greenwood have known for years that they don’t need a chorus and there’s still plenty of good bits; the Smile is an opportunity for fickle listeners to catch up.


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    Source : www.rollingstone.com

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