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When Thom Yorke introduced his new band at their first gig a year ago, he took a moment to explain their name. “Not the Smile as in ha ha ha,” he said, his faux laugh echoing eerily, “more the Smile of the guy who lies to you every day.” Of course, no one figured that the most uncannily accurate doomsayer of the modern age was taking a sharp left to clown town with his latest project, but the Smile are not just aimed at shifty politicians, either. Their pearly grins are myriad, taking inspiration from smiles of love and deceit, bloody smiles and blissful ones, smiles that mend and smiles that destroy. At 53, Yorke has seen them all. And once again, he’s battling the absurdity of existence the only way he knows how: by offering a salve for his anxieties without letting anyone off the hook for turning everything we hold dear into one big joke. This bid for transcendence amid chaos isn’t the only thing that’s familiar about the Smile. The trio also includes Yorke’s main songwriting partner in Radiohead, Jonny Greenwood, along with drummer Tom Skinner, whose eclectic resume includes work with jazz-funk explorers Sons of Kemet, electronic fusionist Floating Points, and UK rapper Kano. It’s the first time Yorke and Greenwood have collaborated on a major project outside of their main gig, and, not coincidentally, A Light for Attracting Attention sounds more like a proper Radiohead album than any of the numerous side projects the band’s members have done on their own.

pitchfork.com