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The Smile-A Light For Attracting Attention ALBUM REVIEW


Written Before Listen


This is the debut album from UK based band The Smile. The band lineup consists of Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, and Tom Skinner. Yes, you heard that right. This is a new Radiohead album. Even Nigel Godrich came to produce. The only difference is that we are missing three members of Radiohead, but the key members that make their music so good are here. With that being said, I'm excited to get into this review because this is the closest thing we have to a Radiohead review on SWM, so without further ado, let’s get into it.


Production

Nigel Godrich is back with Thom and Johnny. After the great production that the Arcade Fire album had, he returns with the people he knows how to produce more than anyone. The drums are classic Nigel and the clean guitars make sure they bring focus on the vocals. The vocals are filled with reverb and sometimes other effects depending on the track. Nigel makes sure that the vocals sound as euphoric as possible. I also think the synths are also well-mixed on this album as songs like “The Same”, “Open The Floodgates” and “Waving A White Flag” has some of the best synth work in recent memory in the Yorkeverse. Godrich continues to prove that he is THE producer to work with anything Radiohead-related.


Genre-Bending


When it comes to the Radiohead work, they often tend to genre-bend, but this is not Radiohead, this is The Smile. Do they continue to venture onto new ideas? Yes. Songs like “You Will Never Work In Television Again“ and “We Don’t Know What Tomorrow Brings” go into punk territory while the synth-based tracks I mentioned earlier borderline into art-pop. There is also a lot of chamber influence and I haven’t heard this much post-punk influence on a Radiohead record either, so I’m glad to hear it emphasized with this side project, and I’m glad to see their ambition and musical venturing stay in the same lane.


Vocal Performance

Thom Yorke might be one of my favorite vocalists ever. He might not have the clearest delivery or the broadest ranger, but Thom knows how to sound euphoric and angelic as his vocal performance is a key part of some of the best Radiohead songs, but Thom Yorke knows how to get aggressive and match the ferocity with the aggressive ones. The aggression of his vocals on “You Will Never Work In Television Again” is what makes the message so much better. Songs like “Speech Bubbles” and “Open The Floodgates” show that Thom Yorke is still able to malnourish tracks with so much bliss and texture. His voice is like another instrument, but he can do it with so much natural ability and sometimes a lot of finesse as well. He is one hell of a vocalist.


Songwriting


A lot of the songwriting on this album and Radiohead, in general, is pretty abstract. They never really evoke a clear message in their music which makes the gates much more open when it comes to relatability. This time around, they do get political at points. Songs like “You Will Never Work In Television Again” diss people like Harvey Weinstein and other people affected by the #MeToo movement. You might think it's a little too late, but remember, it's been 6 years since the last Radiohead album, they have an excuse. I also like “A Hairdryer” which to Americans looks like a diss to Donald Trump but it's most likely a diss to the UK's prime minister Boris Johnson. I'm glad to see that Yorke & company doesn’t get stuck in the past on this one, at least too far away.


Cons


One thing I will say is that this is not too far-fetched from other Radiohead albums. Especially with bands like Radiohead, I want something new and different. I do get it at points but there are points where I get reminded of In Rainbows and Hail To the Thief. Other than that, I will say that This is honestly up to par with some Radiohead “classics”.


Verdict


I was very surprised about this album honestly. I didn’t think much of it before listening. I just thought I was going to get a half-decent Radiohead side project, but I was proved wrong. This album is amazing and might be one of my favorites of 2022.


9/10


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