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Album reviews: The Smile — Wall Of Eyes

Radiohead, as we know it, is probably dead and buried now that it’s been eight years since the last album. We’re just waiting out the clock till Thom Yorke confirms it himself, but don’t fret! Even with the absence of Radiohead, there’s no lack of albums with similar sounds. Yorke has remained busy with his solo work, making the soundtrack for the Suspiria remake in 2018 and his own solo album, Anima, in 2019, which was accompanied by a short film directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. If you were to throw a dart at an up-and-coming new indie band on Spotify, you’d likely land on a band inspired by or explicitly imitating Radiohead, so Radiohead fans are far from starving in these times.

In the 2020s a new band, The Smile, filled the bear-shaped gap Radiohead left behind. The band features Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood, so it’s basically Radiohead with a warmer color scheme. Those aren’t the only members—it also features drummer Tom Skinner of Sons Of Kemet, one of the most talented jazz drummers of the 2010s, even if the name only excites the dorkiest of music dorks. With that star power, they released “A Light For Attracting Attention” in 2021, an album that confirmed to everyone that the band is Radiohead again, but with a new name. It’s hardly a bad thing. Radiohead, at their worst, was a cut above most bands at their best, but it did seem like Yorke and Greenwood were taking the chance to make more Radiohead music without the pressure of the Radiohead name. It hardly felt like a bold, unique step forward for any of the musicians involved, and as a whole, it came off somewhat like a proof of concept.

Their second album was going to be something to watch out for—the chance to prove that the new band was more than “Radiohead Two.” This year, they released their sophomore album, “Wall Of Eyes.” At only eight tracks and forty-five minutes, “Wall of Eyes” was a much shorter project than “A Light For Whatever” from 2021. While they don’t shake off the Radiohead label, they show that the label can perform new tricks. I’m getting sick of saying Radiohead, so let’s call them Thom and Friends for now.

While Thom And Friends is no stranger to genre experimentation, as they played quite a variety of sounds throughout the years, “Wall Of Eyes” is their first proper foray into what could be considered “post-rock,” with lengthy track times and free-form, ever-shifting sound palettes. Admittedly, it’s a condensed set of post-rock, only stretching to eight minutes at the longest during “Bending Hectic.” It’s still a new avenue for Thom And Friends, who usually play much shorter and straightforward songs. That is not to say this album is a wildly new direction for Yorke and Company; in fact, a few tracks throughout, such as “Friend Of A Friend,” “I Quit,” and “Bending Hectic” remind me of “A Moon Shaped Pool,” the last full-length Thom And Friends album playing off the similar mixes of Kosmiche Musick and Dream Pop prevalent throughout “A Moon Shaped Pool.” On “Wall Of Eyes,” those sounds serve as a more ominous presence. The track “Under Our Pillows” has one of the more driving guitar riffs on Wall of Eyes, and Yorke’s haunting voice is equal parts soothing and threatening, like a bubble bath so relaxing you forget you’re drowning. 

Much of “Wall Of Eyes” is steeped in post-COVID anxieties and modern-day paranoia, like “Friend Of A Friend,” where Thom muses, “All of our money, where did it go? Where did it go? In somebody’s pocket, a friend of a friend,” in response to economic issues and rumors of cronyism amongst the conservative party during and post COVID. His final lines set to a bare piano track and subtle strings induce an abject feeling of being robbed and betrayed.

The opener for “Wall Of Eyes” is a fitting scene-setter for what’s to come. A calm, relaxing guitar riff, some rhythmic drum clicks, and sharp haunting strings play alongside Yorke’s gorgeous voice, evoking a feeling of being on the beach at 2 a.m. and watching the waves lap against the fog while contemplating life itself. It flows neatly into “Teleharmonic,” built with Skinner’s impeccable jazz drumming around some whirring guitars. Unfortunately, though, the unique sound in “Teleharmonic” leaves other aspects of the song forgotten. It flows a bit too ambiently for my taste, with Yorke’s vocals blending into a collage of sound. It’s beautiful in its own right, but is better suited on a study playlist than an album. The track also flows poorly into the next song, “Read The Room,” though thankfully, that track is far more involved, being the most aggressive and rocky track on the album. The song starts with wonderfully urgent guitars and intimidating, methodical drums that feel like a very slow but large man is chasing the listener down a dark street. Some of Yorke’s most impressive vocal work to date is his performance of desperate and painful cries throughout the track, which transition into soft passages that lure the listener into the scatterbrained state of mind he’s in. 

The final three tracks finish the album out as well as it could. “I Quit,” is an ominous bridge between the hookier and lyrically focused “Friend Of A Friend.” The more nuts “Bending Hectic,” plays as an abstract yarn set to some beautifully somber downbeat pianos and plucky strings. Yorke croons concerning lyrics about “quitting” and this being the end of the line. The song eventually transitions into these beautiful strings and angelic vocals that trail off into nothingness, transitioning wonderfully into the soft beginning of the eight-minute opus, “Bending Hectic.” It is an absolute monster of a track, the longest track Yorke or Greenwood have ever done aside from that weird Creep Remix Thom did a bit ago. It starts with this sweeping and lovely string-based arrangement, with Yorke providing some of his most beautiful vocals thus far before sharply veering into a nightmarish collage of some of the harshest guitar work Greenwoods laid to record. Brutally pounding drums are set off by a wonderful jumpscare of a chord as Yorke belts over the chaos ensuing with some guttural alt-rock shouts. 

Unfortunately, the album ends on kind of a dud for me. The final track, “You Know Me!,” is a soft ambient piece that sails smoothly through the ear, with the pianos and strings serving mostly as a respite from the disorienting disarray of the previous track, making for an unfortunately forgettable finale that deflates the power Bending Hectic could’ve had as a final track.

At the end of the day though, I wholeheartedly recommend “Wall Of Eyes” despite its soft, forgettable lulls and dips back into that comfortable Thom And Friends bubble. It’s an album with punch, beauty, and amazing guitar, drum, and vocal work. In these brutally uncertain times, having Thoms’ heavenly falsetto, like the world’s most beautiful nightmare, is something I’ll always appreciate—especially if it means I don’t have to listen to anyone else on the train for another day.


Kate Megathlin

Hello there stranger, this is Kate Megathlin, writer for weekly music reviews for the Seattle Collegian, here to assert how much more important her opinions are than yours. She is a Seattle Central student with a major love of music and music culture, and every week she’ll try to deliver reviews of new albums coming out, if you want to recommend albums for her to review, email her at

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