Writing and Photography by Bobby Talamine
Edited by Fiza Javid
Thursday, December 1, 2022.
When The Smile released their debut album back in mid May of this year- "A Light for Attracting Attention", Thom Yorke made it be known in multiple interviews that the band's name, was "Not the Smile as in ha ha ha. But more of a smile of the guy who lies to you everyday."
Thought about that quote a lot when discovering, and rediscovering the album off and on since its release.
Clearly an album in my top ten releases for the year, and on multiple levels, has me questioning everything as of late, especially since seeing them live at the Riviera Theatre in Chicago.
The subdued and transfixed audience- like you could hear a pin drop.
The way the three band mates presented themselves from left to right- Thom Yorke on multiple basses and vocals and occasional synths and samples, followed by Jonny Greenwood on upright piano and guitars, and of course Tom Skinner on drumming, percussion, and some keyboards as well.
And they were not completely upfront to the lip of the stage- they remained immersed towards the back a bit, secure in their spots.
But the overall feel- the way the songs were presented, especially with the opening song on this tour, and also the album itself- "The Same"- and the refrain of "People in the streets- Please, we are all the same"- over and over and over, through Jonny's pulsating upright piano chords adding the overall tension and powerlessness.
The way Thom persists with the overall angst of the word "Please", over and over- was just haunting, and has stayed with me since.
Like a "Please" for me internally, to dial it down a bit, let alone my neighborhood, my work, my city, my country, my world.
I know it may sound a bit crazy, my thoughts on this, let alone others, and I haven't shared this with anyone up until writing this review.
But from the get go, this show with The Smile has been transfixing on so many levels, like I needed to be there to catch them at this moment in time far beyond documenting anything- but also to get my head on straight as far as inner self.
Good art of all kinds will do that to you- questioning everything, internally / externally.
Not that Thom and Jonny in particular are doomsayers - but it's clear to me as well that they somewhat have the same thoughts, although their approach is anxiety done cinematically.
Now I bring this up because of all their side projects and soundtrack making over the years, clearly their project The Smile and what has grown from that beyond the recording stage shows how relevant and important this release is compared to their body of work.
This show- this current tour, is moving on so many levels, emotionally, and spiritually.
Can't really touch on that and move people unless you're all in, especially conveying such honesty.
The way they approach their instruments, their live performance- another huge takeaway was towards the end of song two - "Thin Thing", and while over the repeated refrain of Thom versing out "Making mushrooms out of men- that's ok I guess - If you like this kind of, kind of thing, this kind of thin thin thin thing", over and over, and you see Jonny turn towards Thom, transfixed, like standing there stoically for minutes on end, body and feet towards the guitar pedals and audience, but head turned completely right onto Thom, not blinking, but watching him transfixed.
That says lots to me as well, the interplay between the three of them, which lasted with moments like this throughout their entire set.
Also, the persistent low key bass tones from Thom's basses, along with Jonny's intricate finger picking and ever so noticeable guitar tone- gives you chills when you see these two connect on this level, and flush out the instrumentation like it was all created on the spot.
And of course, highlights throughout their set- with the first single released from the album - "You Will Never Work in Television Again", or "Bodies Laughing", and "Pana- Vision" were presented subdued and haunted, and better yet- "We Don't Know What Tomorrow Brings", which is just so fraught with energy and angst, the build up it brings.
All through their set you find yourself immersed with the beauty of this album, and all that it questions, even through to the encore, with "Open the Floodgates" into "Read the Room", and ending with a Thom Yorke song " Feeling Pulled Apart by Horses".
All of it - all eighteen songs in total presented- makes you wish that their was multiple dates in each city, and catch these guys in variations of.
There's a pact alright, between artist and audience with these guys, and the unmistakable appeal in all things higher creative craft, and the enjoyment that brings time and time agin, whether it be full on band Radiohead, or each and any side project where the freedom reigns to create, and not be burdened by withholding anything back for future this and that.
Creativity like Thom and Jonny and Tom of The Smile gels on many levels- because they embrace the present, and are all in for what transpires.
Album from The Smile- again, one of my favorites for the year.
The Smile live and in person- also one of my favorite shows of the year.
Bobby Talamine - JBTV Music Television Chicago
The Smile, Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Tom Skinner, JBTV Music Television, Bobby Talamine, Live Music, Fiza Javid