At first glance a smile suggests happiness, even friendliness. But there can be a darkness behind a smile, too.
That's the territory Radiohead's Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood and renown jazz drummer Tom Skinner so beautifully inhabit on A Light For Attracting Attention, the debut album from their new project, The Smile.
With two-thirds of The Smile being arguably Radiohead's most important members, this album sounds like a natural follow-up to the English heavyweight's 2016 record A Moon Shaped Pool. Producer Nigel Godrich is also at the helm.
It's the most impressive Radiohead side project and could be the best album Yorke and Greenwood have been involved in since In Rainbows.
On the haunting opener, The Same, Yorke pleads for people to take control of their morally corrupt leaders with "Somebody's falling down/Somebody's telling lies." Greenwood's jerky guitar combines with Skinner's frantic beats on The Opposite, while You Will Never Work In Television is the most conventional rocker Yorke has sang since The Bends.
Lyrically, Yorke is dripping with the venom we once saw on Paranoid Android when he lines up Harvey Weinstein with, "All those beautiful young hopes and dreams/ Devoured by those evil eyes and those piggy limbs/ You sad f--k, you throw small change/ Take your dirty hands off my love."
Boris Johnson and Donald Trump are the targets on A Hairdryer, as Yorke croons, "Shame on you, blue-eyed fox."
Open The Floodgates is driven by a shimmering electronic chime and borrows largely from Radiohead's Daydreaming, while Free In The Knowledge travels further back to revive the acoustic majesty of Fake Plastic Trees. But unlike Fake Plastic Trees, Yorke is more hopeful as he sings, "Free in the knowledge that one day this will end/ Free in the knowledge that everything is change."
A Light For Attracting Attention might have The Smile attached to it, but this is essentially a Radiohead album. It's chilling, thrilling and wrapped up in the beautiful melancholy the art-rockers have long been renown for.
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