Album Review: A Light for Attracting Attention by The Smile
Excellent, Based on 6 Critics
Sputnikmusic - 86 Based on rating 4.3/5
Turn that frown upside down
Cryptically-named The Smile are a side project composed of three musicians: Jonny Greenwood, Thom Yorke, and Tom Skinner. The first two are (of course) famous members of Radiohead, while the third is most-recognized as part of Sons Of Kemet. A Light For Attracting Attention is The Smile's first LP, and it's a wildly impressive opening statement, although its very nature will prompt a fair amount of discussion.
What do I mean by that? Well, this album is extremely late-era Radiohead in style.
In the music world, a new Radiohead project feels like a seismic event, commanding the kind of attention that few other bands can. As one of the most universally beloved and remarkably consistent elder statesmen in what can loosely be defined as rock music, Radiohead albums each seem weighty and purposeful, the product of years of careful craftsmanship. At this point, the world hasn't seen one of these events in six years, not since the band's 2016 record, A Moon Shaped Pool.
The Radiohead side project most likely to be mistaken for Radiohead brings together Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood with Sons Of Kemet’s Tom Skinner It’s been six years since Radiohead last released an album, 2016’s A Moon Shaped Pool. In that time, we’ve had a couple of Thom Yorke solo projects (including new music for the BBC show Peaky Blinders), some Jonny Greenwood film scores and Ed O’Brien‘s debut effort Earth. Yet none of those side projects really had the magic that Radiohead could create as a unit.
Until now, Radiohead side-projects have always served a clear purpose, distinct from the band: Thom Yorke has indulged his electronic fixations, Jonny Greenwood has composed film scores, and Ed O'Brien and Philip Selway have tried their hand at being singer-songwriters.
The Smile have no such obvious reason for existing. The latest project from Yorke and Greenwood, along with Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner, could easily pass for Radiohead, and A Light for Attracting Attention sounds very much like the band's 10th album might.
Fuck it, let's go there. What is art? What's the point of all this? Twenty-five years ago - to the month! - Radiohead released 'OK Computer'. Today, a slightly rebooted crack team of Thom, Jonny, producer Nigel and a new kid confusingly also called Tom have released this album. It's extraordinarily good - more on that shortly - but why? The main three aren't short of a few quid, are they, gallivanting off to tinseltown doing soundtracks and whatnot.
Photo by Alex Lake A Light for Attracting Attention by The Smile Radiohead's Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood debuted their first batch of songs as new trio The Smile, with Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner, at last year's Glastonbury streaming event. Radiohead's internet fanbase immediately went into meltdown, speculating wildly about what this meant for Radiohead's future. But can you blame Yorke and Greenwood for wanting to shake off the expectations surrounding their main band, even if it's just for one pandemic album? It's not as if there's no precedent for The Smile.