When we get together, well then, who knows?
May 13, 2022 2:28 PM   Subscribe

A year after their surprise reveal at Glastonbury, Radiohead pandemic spinoff project The Smile have finally dropped their much-anticipated debut album: A Light for Attracting Attention [full album on YouTube]. Featuring Yorke, Greenwood, Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner, longtime RH producer Nigel Godrich, and an assist from the London Contemporary Orchestra, the album's heady mixture of funk, post-punk, math rock, soaring ballads, and themes of passion, alienation, and melancholy make it (perhaps) a worthy successor to 2016's elegant A Moon Shaped Pool. Music videos: angry #MeToo rocker "You Will Never Work in Television Again" [lyrics] - abstract animation for orchestral odyssey "Pana-Vision" [lyrics] - subliminal lyrics for swanky groove "The Smoke" [lyrics] - trippy stop-motion nightmare "Thin Thing" [lyrics] - an occult ritual framed by hopeful elegy "Free in the Knowledge" [lyrics] - Thom ventures into a coal mine for the beautifully ethereal "Skrting on the Surface" [lyrics], a fan favorite 20+ years in the making. Full tracklist (including a complete live set list!) inside.

/r/Radiohead leak reaction thread - release megathread

Full tracklist:
1. "The Same" [lyrics] - Live at Magazine, London
People in the streets... *please*...
We are all the samе... *please*...
Review: "On the track, Yorke offers a plea for human connection [...] emphasizing the last word like a man facing the barrel of a gun. [...] “The Same” begins with a spare synthesizer throb vaguely reminiscent of Kid A opener “Everything in Its Right Place” that serves as the song’s heartbeat. But as it goes on, more and more sounds slowly surround that pulse, like so many nattering voices sowing discord. A repetitive piano figure bobs up and down. The modular tones begin to swarm and then fray at the edges. The effect is disorienting, almost frightening. Even if we are the same, the song seems to suggest, the static we drift through every day is working overtime to keep us apart."

Thom: "While trapped in the house for two years, one of the things I discovered is… It’s quite possible us human beings are all quite similar in actual fact. Not that we’re being told that, ever! Apparently we’re all in our little factions having to fight each other. Bollocks."
2. "The Opposite" [lyrics] - Live in London
What will now become of us? The straw is coming out of us
It goes back and forth followed by a question mark, lit up like a firework
Genius.com: "Yorke’s lyrics frequently reference Eliot’s The Hollow Men. This could be another reference:

We are the hollow men, We are the stuffed men, Leaning together, Headpiece filled with straw. Alas! [...]
Ash on an old man’s sleeve, Is all the ash the burnt roses leave. Dust in the air suspended
3. "You Will Never Work in Television Again" [lyrics] - Live in London
Let the lights down low! Bunga-bunga* or you'll...
Never work in television again
Review: "...the most raucous Radiohead-related track since Hail to the Thief’s “2 + 2 = 5” nearly two decades ago. Armed with three distorted chords that could have filled CBGB in 1977, Yorke puts on his best sneer while standing up to a “gangster troll” who’s lording his power over an aspiring young woman."

*"Bunga bunga" being a reference to former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's infamous sex parties (although there are likely allusions to Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein as well).
4. "Pana-Vision" [lyrics] - Live in London
A viеw that is so wide, it’s gonna break
It's like it holds me in its gaze
Named after the motion picture camera lens company, fitting for a track filled with cinematic metaphors. Recently featured in the series finale for BBC drama Peaky Blinders
5. "The Smoke" [lyrics] - Live in London
It's easy to leave me, we should give ourselves another chance
Let go of our troubles into our caress, our caress
And we set ourselves on fire
Review: "...a beguiling waft of understated funk that sounds like a collaboration between Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti and Marvin Gaye—thanks to Yorke’s wobbling bassline and falsetto moans hinting at sensuality and self-immolation, it’s the sexiest thing he’s ever set to tape."

Genius.com: "It’s essentially a protest song – the latest in a long line from Yorke, but this time, hopeful in tone. The focus is on an extended metaphor of group self-immolation, and unified protest, as a means for real change, ‘set[ting them]selves on fire’ for the ‘one true revolution’, until the ‘smoke’ begins to wake others up to their cause – which, here, it does. A note of hopefulness and a message of solidarity during tense and challenging times for protestors everywhere."
6. "Speech Bubbles" [lyrics] - Live in London (including some mighty impressive simultaneous harp+piano action)
Devastation has come, left in a station with a note upon
Now there's never any place, never any place to put my feet back down
Review: "Over airy percussion and Greenwood’s fluttering strings and piano, Yorke sounds like a refugee with nowhere to go. As he wails about cities on fire and a sudden sense of dislocation, it’s easy to connect the words to images of Ukrainian families torn apart, waiting for the next text from a loved one left behind."
7. "Thin Thing" [lyrics] - Live in London
That’s okay I guess if you like this kind of, kind of thing
This kinda thin, thin, thin, thin thing
Accompanied by a fairly disturbing stop-motion music video by Cristóbal León and Joaquín Cociña, who commented: "Hearing the song for the first time, we imagined a frenetic fluid that carries machines, pieces of human bodies and carnivorous plants. When presenting the idea to the band, Thom told us about a dream that made him write the song. We believe the video is the conjunction of these two things."
8. "Open the Floodgates" [lyrics] - Live in London
Don't bore us... get to the chorus... and open the floodgates
We want the good bits... without your bullshit... and no heartaches
Review: "...another weightless elegy that flows like entrance music for the afterlife. “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus,” Yorke sings over celestial synths on “Open the Floodgates,” evoking a classic rock cliché he’s spent a lifetime trying to dismantle. [...] This internal monologue has been taking up space in the singer’s mind since at least the In Rainbows era in 2006, when Radiohead first sound-checked a version of the song. Its numbness in the face of impending death goes back even further, to OK Computer’s “No Surprises,” and Greenwood’s gently chiming guitar recalls “Let Down” from that same 25-year-old album. When the hook does arrive, it’s fraught and spare. “Someone lead me out the darkness,” Yorke repeats, as the cloud of synths begins to dissolve behind him. It’s an appeal that doubles as a pact between artist and audience—a pact that dredges resilience out from the abyss, that asks for absolution so we can receive it. A pact that, through it all, remains intact.

Flashback: An early version of "Open the Floodgates" from 2011
9. "Free in the Knowledge" [lyrics] - Live in London
Free in the knowledge that one day this will end
Free in the knowledge that everything is change
And this was just a bad moment, we were fumbling around
But we won’t get caught like that, soldiers on our backs
We won’t get caught like that...
Review: "...the album’s most direct song, deserves a spot among classic Radiohead ballads like “True Love Waits” and “Give Up the Ghost.” It’s about wishful thinking in a world where authoritarianism seems so far away—until it isn’t. “A face using fear to try to keep control,” Yorke sings, before his mind tentatively turns to revolution: “But when we get together, well then, who knows?” This isn’t a call to arms, though. It’s an admission of fragility that rings painfully clear and true."

The music video, a frightening and minimalist look at a pagan cult ritual, recalls the Wicker Man-meets-claymation treatment of AMSP's lead single, "Burn the Witch."
10. "A Hairdryer" [lyrics] - Live in London
Look at all the pretty lights...
Look at all the pretty lights...*
Review: "...with its barbs about someone who flies south for the sun, blames everyone else for his screw-ups, and spins reams of lies—certainly seems like a swipe at the magically coiffed former head of state. Does the world need another Trump diss track right now? Probably not. But will the anxious song, which skitters on the back of Skinner’s pointillistic hi-hat work, feel increasingly relevant over the next couple of years, as the world braces for the next clusterfucked U.S. presidential election? Most definitely yes. That’s part of Yorke’s power as a dystopian seer: Every description of the present seems to also foretell the future."

*...or is it "pretty lies"?
11. "Waving a White Flag" [lyrics] - Live in London
Couldn't move a muscle
Couldn't get the breath in
Couldn't see the face when
Didn't wanna listen

12. "We Don't Know What Tomorrow Brings" [lyrics] - Live in London
It's a terrible shame, and the grass is always green
Get it while you can, or get sad and then get mean

13. "Skrting on the Surface" [lyrics] - Live in London
When we realize, we have only to die, then we're out of here
We're just skirting on the surface
We have only to click our fingers and we'll disappear
We're just skirting on the surface
Debuted with a black-and-white music video depicting Yorke as a coal minder far below the surface; Shots.net has a long interview with BAFTA award-winning director Mark Jenkin on the process of making it.

Don't miss Japanese YouTuber Fluffy Momo's demonstration of how the guitar lines drift in and out of phase
Unreleased: "Just Eyes and Mouth" [lyrics]
Soon to complete your transformation, and beginning all this all over again
To be changing, always becoming, a traveler passing through

More live performances from the album's extended roll-out:
"Skrting on the Surface" live from Glastonbury 2021

Thom Yorke performs "Free In The Knowledge" at the Royal Albert Hall

Thom Yorke - Zermatt Unplugged Live - Part 2 - playing a mix of classic material and new songs from The Smile
See also: Thom Yorke's 2019 project Anima, which features a mix of Yorke's audio and Paul Thomas Anderson's video in a similar musical style (previously, previously)
posted by Rhaomi (8 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
I hated The Eraser with a passion but based on a random track The Opposite, this sounds awesome. Fantastic groove and amazing guitar work! I’ll be giving it a proper listen tomorrow.
posted by freecellwizard at 3:03 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]

I listened to it today and really loved it. It does sound a bit like a lost Radiohead album, maybe after In Rainbows but before A Moon Shaped Pool. I definitely enjoyed it more than any of the other side projects so far.

I love Phil Selway, but I dig the drumming on the new album a lot. That said, I think I do miss Colin's bass. He's such a great player—to me an unsung MVP in the band—and I wonder what some of these songs would sound like with him on them.

But that's a small hypothetical and I'm pleased I get to listen to this music today.
posted by synecdoche at 3:29 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]

Still processing so refraining from commentary, but helluva post! Loved Eraser, loved Anima, love this thick vein of sound and art. Yes please.
posted by kybix at 5:42 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]

Yay! I needed this!
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 9:03 PM on May 13

I'm disappointed that this album doesn't continue the electronic styles of his last few solo albums but I enjoy pretty much anything the Radioheadz produce. They got a die-hard jazz/funk/techno/d&b/electronica fan to listen to guitars! I love how they integrate more traditional instruments with newer stuff. I'd love to see Thom, Colin, and Nigel do something with Burial and Modeselektor!
posted by technodelic at 4:37 PM on May 14

Glad to see Jonny Greenwood involved. Eraser shows the effect of his absence. He brings the real unusual musical interestingness,.
posted by lookoutbelow at 7:21 PM on May 15

Yes yes yes. Beautifully structured post. You've inspired me to work up one of my own. On a different band of course...
posted by aquanaut at 5:27 PM on May 18

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