The Smile: Wall of Eyes – Another classic from Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood and Tom Skinner

The alt.supergroup’s second album is a looser-sounding affair, with sombre echoes of Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool

Wall of Eyes
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Artist: The Smile
Genre: Alternative
Label: XL Recordings

“Let us raise our glasses to what we don’t deserve,” Thom Yorke sings on Wall of Eyes, the opening and title track on the second studio album by The Smile. “To the grains of sand,” he continues, “slipping through our hands.”

The news that Yorke and his bandmates in The Smile, the multi-instrumentalist and composer Jonny Greenwood and the drummer extraordinaire Tom Skinner, are not just unveiling a new album but embarking on a world tour that kicks off at 3Arena in Dublin in March is probably not music to the ears of fervent Radiohead fans, as they’ve been starved of new material from their beloved band since the release of A Moon Shaped Pool, in 2016. But anyone who enjoyed The Smile’s remarkable first album, A Light for Attracting Attention, will savour this opportunity to hear more.

For that 2022 album, the trio chose to stay within Radiohead’s comfort zone by working with Nigel Godrich, who has produced virtually all their records since The Bends, in 1995. Now the producer’s chair is occupied by Sam Petts-Davies, who was a sound engineer on A Moon Shaped Pool and has also worked with Roger Waters and Warpaint. The results are a far looser-sounding album, which suits this little band perfectly. London Contemporary Orchestra also contribute, lending some of these songs a remarkable, sombre majesty that, perhaps unsurprisingly, isn’t a million miles away from A Moon Shaped Pool.

The Smile recorded these eight songs in their native Oxford and at Abbey Road, in London. The highlights Read the Room and Under the Pillows are stunning examples of Yorke’s voice and impeccable musicianship coalescing. Friend of a Friend follows, featuring saxophone from the American jazz composer Robert Stillman alongside the orchestra’s sweeping strings. “All of that money, where did it go?” Yorke sings. “In somebody’s pocket. Friend of a friend. All that loose change. Loose change.”


The longest track, Bending Hectic, comes in the closing stages, an eight-minute long epic of soft atmospherics and dramatic noise that is one of their best songs yet. “I’ve got these slings, I’ve got these arrows,” Yorke sings in the chorus. I’ll force myself to turn, turn.” It steadily reaches a towering crescendo of noise.

If you wanted an example of a Radiohead song that would fit into the mood of Wall of Eyes as a reference point, I’d suggest Jigsaw Falling into Place from In Rainbows, or Burn the Witch from A Moon Shaped Pool. The bottom line is that Yorke and Greenwood have delivered yet another classic.

Éamon Sweeney

Éamon Sweeney, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about music and culture