A Light For Attracting Attention – The Smile ★★★★

2022A Light For Attracting AttentionThe Smile★★★★77RockAlternative Rock

The Smile is the closest we’ve gotten to a Thom Yorke side project actually sounding like a real Radiohead record.

His vocals on Eraser obviously sounded like Radiohead, but the songs didn’t have the same range or rock energy. Atoms for Piece and Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes felt too sparse and a bit too mechanical. 2019’s Anima, of course, got Yorke as close to achieving his goal of creating a true electronic and house-based record. While it’s likely his most fully-formed record, it’s the farthest from Radiohead’s rock roots. 

With the help of Johnny Greenwood’s guitar work and compositions,  A Light For Attracting Attention has that alternative rock edge with the lush, orchestral elements that make some of Radiohead’s songs the most beautiful and creative in the genre. Additionally, Tom Skinner’s percussion work brings post-punk, math and prog elements that feel both familiar to fans but distinct enough from Radiohead drummer Philip Selway’s style that it isn’t mimicry.

Across 13 songs and what feels like a quick 53 minutes, The Smile offers a combination of gentle, emotional pieces, songs that are eerie and put you in a trance, and tracks that just rock.

There’s the more rhythmic tracks, usually with a hypnotic bass or guitar riff that goes on and on over a grooving drum beat, like “The Opposite,” “The Smoke,” and “Thin Thing.” Then there’s the more classically artistic and melodic tracks — “Pana-vision,” “Feel In The Knowledge,” “Open the Floodgates” — that have some pretty piano or acoustic lines, atmospheric electronics and symphonic strings and horns in their buildups. And finally, there’s a set of quick rock tracks with rapid, repetitive drumbeats, building dissonance and harmonies — “A Hairdryer,” “We Don’t Know What Tomorrow Brings” and “You Will Never Work In Television Again.”

The guitar work and drums feel like Radiohead songs that would have been on Amnesiac, or maybe a King of Limbs-era B-side like “These are My Twisted Words” or “A Staircase.” The piano and electronics are more in line with Hail To The Thief and Eraser-era pieces, while the sting work of course reminds of A Moon Shaped Pool. It may not technically be a Radiohead record, and doesn’t have the grand scale or weight you’d expect from one, but it’s probably the next best thing you could ask for, something that’s intricate enough to keep your attention but straightforward enough to come back to again and again. 


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