- A review of The Smile album ‘Wall of Eyes’ by Sam Edmonds
In a world so used to large swathes of time between albums (unless your band name rhymes with ‘Thin Mizzard and the Shizzard Fizard’), it is a very pleasant surprise to be enjoying a new album from ‘The Smile’ so close after their debut. ‘Wall of Eyes’ follows ‘A Light for Attracting Attention’ by around 18 months, a time during which members Thom Yorke, Johnny Greenwood and Tom Skinner toured fairly heavily.
I really can’t speak more highly of how refreshing it is to not endure 4-5 year album cycles from bands when music is ready to be heard. Most of the new material was conceived on their recent tours and recorded at the famous Abbey Road studios in London. Frequent producer and collaborator Nigel Godrich is not in the control room for this LP however and a subtle sonic change is definitely audible. The trio hired Sam Petts-Davies for their sophomore. Fresh off mixing and production duties on 2023’s vastly underrated ‘Puma Blue’ album ‘Holy Waters’, Petts-Davies allows an ambience and darkness finds every crevice on this record.
Despite their busy schedules Yorke and Greenwood had also found time to score films in the last two years and it is impossible not to hear the impacts of that sort of work throughout ‘Wall of Eyes’. Every song has that ethereal quality. It is, to use the dreaded buzzword, cinematic in scope and mood. Album highlight ‘Teleharmonic’ pulses with its Rhodes-Piano led chord progression, never settling until it ends. You can imagine the main character of a dark British noir living out the lyrics “Will I make the morning? I don’t know”.
Follower ‘Read the Room’ brings Greenwood’s eclectic guitar tapping technique to the fore, less Eddie Van Halen, more akin to a valium microdosed synthesiser. Yorke’s lyrics evoke an image of a checked out rockstar, someone that can simply not be fucked. “Who knows what it wants from me?...I am gonna count to three. Keep that shit away from me.” It reminds me a little of Taylor Swift’s lyric on 2022’s ‘Lavender Haze’, “Get it off your chest. Get it off my desk”. Perhaps Yorke and Swift are dealing with some of the same pressures? Aren’t we all?
Drummer Tom Skinner shines on ‘Under the Pillow’ and album climax ‘Bending Heretic’. His thick snare drum anchors the more Eno-esque spots on this LP and keeps things in nostalgic accessibility while delicate chaos ebbs and flows.
While ‘Wall of Eyes’ is not the huge evolutionary step that we often saw Yorke and Greenwood take from one Radiohead album to the next, it is a refinement in sound. If ‘A Light For…’ was a collection of excellent songs, ‘Wall of Eyes’ is a cohesive and focused statement. Deliberate, ambient, mournful and comforting, it will reward re-listens.
Wall of Eyes (Indie Exclusive Sky Blue Vinyl)
The brand new album from The Smile, the band formed by Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead and drummer/producer Tom Skinner (Sons of Kemet). Read our review Tracklist 1. Wall Of Eyes2. Teleharmonic3. Read The Room4. Under Our Pillows5.… read more
*Photo by Frank Lebon*