The Smile: Wall of Eyes (XL) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The Smile

Wall of Eyes

XL

Feb 21, 2024 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


At this stage, it would be a disservice to merely dub The Smile a “Radiohead side project.” The trio—composed of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood and Sons of Kemet’s Tom Skinner—deserve better than that. The band is its own entity, and on their second full-length, The Smile return to a space that only they can inhabit. It’s a space marked by a unique unease of opposing forces: the music is dense yet light, calculated yet somehow spontaneous, bleak and yet beautiful.

And yet, Wall of Eyes features all the hallmarks of a truly great Radiohead record. It carries the trademark Greenwood-off-kilter touches (guitar squeals and fastidious layered tinkering). There are Yorke’s expansive vocals that signal the coming apocalypse. There are explorations of genres that cover bossanova, prog, Krautrock, and jazz, and some distinct blend of all of these that was present on their debut, 2022’s A Light for Attracting Attention.

Despite its slimmer track count, Wall of Eyes packs a punch. Just like its predecessor, the songs here stand alone as expert entries into the Yorke-Greenwood catalog.

One particular standout is “Read the Room,” an amorphous track that shifts time signatures and styles, just like its narrator shifts attitudes about the ennui he endures in the world. “Under Our Pillows” is frenetic and bounces around like Radiohead’s “Morning Mr. Magpie.” “Friend of a Friend” is much more than a stripped down reflection on COVID-era corruption; it’s a soothing cinematic track that’s as sturdy as it is grandiose. “I Quit” sounds like a leftover idea from the A Moon Shaped Pool sessions, a ghostly goodbye against the backdrop of pedal delays and symphonic resolutions. And “Bending Hectic,” the eight-minute opus about a racecar driver careening off an Italian mountain, at last gets an official album release.

Wall of Eyes is just as good an effort as any Radiohead album, and rivals the work its members have done in other projects. It’s a complete joy to watch these artists work, for their creative expression is a treasure. (www.thesmiletheband.com)

Author rating: 9/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10



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