Having shunned the possibility of a new Radiohead album any time soon, Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood continue to embrace a less stressful path with a second The Smile release. Keenly aware that they'd never be able to fully meet expectations with their main project, the duo, alongside drummer Tom Skinner, adopt a looser, more cinematic expression. Wall of Eyes makes it loud and clear that a proposition like The Smile is here to stay, laying to rest the idea that any other Radiohead member could ever replicate the identity they're gradually forging.
"I quit, my head is lit" - Thom Yorke, 2024
Looking back at my review for The Smile's debut record, 2022's A Light for Attracting Attention, I can easily recognize it's far from my strongest writing. At the time I was obsessed with A Moon Shaped Pool (maybe, still am?) and the fact that a new, if related, band had come out with a record bearing a more than passing resemblance to that album's sound and aesthetic immediately set me up to wax poetic in a gushing release-day writeup. While I don't necessarily regret this - unless some billionaire happens to read this and take pity on me, Sputnikmusic.
Thom Yorke has always struggled with the standard cycles placed on artists by the music industry. Write, record, release - repeat, ad infinitum. He's always been drawn more to the jazz world, or to club culture, favouring something fluid. In that way, The Smile makes perfect sense. A collaboration ….
Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood and Tom Skinner's second album as The Smile, Wall of Eyes, is a notably different beast to its 2022 predecessor, A Light for Attracting Attention. The new record comprises five songs that the band has been playing live over the last year or so ("Teleharmonic," "Read the Room," "Under Our Pillows," "Friend of a Friend" and "Bending Hectic"), plus three new songs (the title track, "I Quit" and "You Know Me!"). The eight-song track list feels rather scant compared to ALFAA's 13 songs, and the album clocks in at an economical 45 minutes, neatly divided into four songs per side.