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The Smile - A Light For Attracting Attention (Album Review)

Wednesday, 18 May 2022 Written by Tom Morgan

Photo: Alex Lake

Things in Radiohead land take time. The five members are releasing albums less and less frequently, pursuing solo albums and side-projects before they (hopefully) one day return to their acclaimed band.

The latest of these side-projects is The Smile and it finds Radiohead’s main songwriters, Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, in a particularly playful mood. Whereas the previous Radiohead album - 2016’s A Moon Shaped Pool possessed a delicate, forlorn tone, ‘A Light For Attracting Attention’ is a more full-bodied and rock-oriented proposition.

Packed full of nervous rhythms and spidery cadences, the closest internal comparison to this LP would perhaps be Radiohead’s 2011 album ‘The King Of Limbs’. The jittery drum patterns of tracks such as The Opposite and Thin Thing play out like a more skeletal take on that record's exploration of restless beats and off-kilter textures.

This approach is bolstered via the work of drummer Tom Skinner, previously of Sons of Kemet fame. His understated, complex beats on the album’s faster tracks feel perpetually on the edge of falling apart, adroitly complimenting Yorke’s anxious-as-ever lyrics and Greenwood’s fidgety guitars.

A few tracks slow things down and enter into familiar Yorke-ian ballad territory. Pana-Vision is a resplendent highlight, featuring great vocal melodies and unobtrusive strings, while Free In the Knowledge is equally emotive and builds to a powerful crescendo. The style is recognisable, but gets injected with enough urgency and flair so as not to feel like a retread.

It’s impossible not to compare Radiohead side projects to the incredible work that the main band has consistently produced, but ‘A Light For Attracting Attention’ does a good job staking a claim as its own entity. Skinner’s drums, in particular, add a layer of personality, contributing to a debut album that glows with unique energy and ideas.

The Smile Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sun May 29 2022 - LONDON Roundhouse
Mon May 30 2022 - LONDON Roundhouse
Wed June 01 2022 - EDINBURGH Usher Hall
Thu June 02 2022 - MANCHESTER Albert Hall

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