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The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

The Smile is Much More Than a Radiohead Side Project

With “Wall of Eyes,” Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood continue to deliver top tier rock music
The+Smile+is+Much+More+Than+a+Radiohead+Side+Project

You can’t talk about the most popular alternative rock bands without mentioning Radiohead. One of the few bands who have balanced massive commercial success as well as critical acclaim, Radiohead have become icons of the modern rock scene. However, it’s been eight years since the release of the last Radiohead album, “A Moon Shaped Pool,” leading many to wonder; what has the band been up to? 

Members Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood have been busy with their new band, The Smile.

The Smile consists of the duo Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, and English jazz drummer Tom Skinner. They released their debut album “A Light for Attracting Attention” in 2022 to impatient fans. The album was received well, but many critics felt that it lacked the touch that makes so many Radiohead albums special. Throughout the ensuing tour, The Smile debuted many songs that would appear on their follow up album, “Wall Of Eyes,” fine tuning them before their eventual release.

The final product is a beautifully haunting album that improves on nearly all fronts when compared to their debut.

It is natural to immediately compare The Smile to Radiohead because of Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood. However, to simply call The Smile a Radiohead side project does the band a massive disservice. 

With the addition of Tom Skinner, The Smile craft a unique sound, distinct from anything under Radiohead’s name. Skinner’s influence is apparent right from the beginning, as on the opening track “Wall Of Eyes,” there is a light Bossa Nova drum beat that underscores soaring Thom Yorke vocals. It creates this eerie feeling from the juxtaposition of a warm sounding drum beat and haunting vocals/synths. On the following track “Teleharmonic,” Skinner lays down a drumbeat influenced by afrobeats, that gives the synth-driven song a funky feeling. The effect of his chilled funky drumming underneath layers of Jonny Greenwood arrangements and Thom Yorke vocals is entrancing.

This is broken in the third and fourth tracks as they open with sharp and dissonant guitar plucks. As each song progresses they develop into these serene soundscapes, lush with layers of synths. In “Read the Room,” Thom Yorke’s vocals spread out across the instrumental, achieving a very eerie effect. On the outro of “Under Our Pillows,” Jonny Greenwood arranges strings, synths and robotic noises into this building wall of noise that abruptly ends as it leads into “Friend Of A Friend.”

Through The Smile, Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood are given even more creative liberty to explore sounds that they couldn’t on a Radiohead project. Songs build in tension rising to climaxes that aren’t found on the typical Radiohead song. There appears to be an influence from post rock in songs such as “Bending Hectic.” Throughout “Bending Hectic,” strings build and build as horns are added until the song climaxes and crashes down into roaring distorted guitars. The result is an epic piece of music that earns back the listeners patience instantaneously.

Jonny Greenwood’s work in film scoring definitely shaped much of the sounds on “Wall of Eyes.” Much of the string and synth arrangements feel very cinematic, especially on songs such as “Friend of a Friend” and “Bending Hectic,” where the strings get louder, and tension builds in a way that horror soundtracks create suspense. The Smile seems to have focused specifically into creating a dark atmosphere of sounds.

“Wall of Eyes” could also possibly signal the direction Radiohead is heading in the future. “Wall of Eyes” in many ways feels like an expansion and improvement on the sounds explored in “A Moon Shaped Pool.” The next Radiohead album could build off of the experimenting done by Greenwood and Yorke with The Smile. 

That being said, The Smile should be taken as its own entity separate from Radiohead. While there are similarities, with  “Wall of Eyes” The Smile creates a distinct haunting sound that sticks with fans listen after listen.

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About the Contributor
Will Beltramini, Website Editor
Will Beltramini is a senior here at Summit High School. You can often find him on the soccer field preparing for his next game or listening to his large record collection with his dog. Will loves nothing more than the outdoors, whether backpacking, biking, trail running, Will enjoys it all. In addition to this, Will also enjoys hitting the slopes of Bachelor with his snowboard and exploring different cultures through traveling. This is his second year writing for The Pinnacle, and he is excited to be one of two website managers.

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