Nahhhh I'm joking, it's great, don't start with the tomatoes please. This has been one of my most anticipated albums of the year, considering that Radiohead is pretty much my favorite band of all time, and this has been officially considered as "Radiohead light". And well, for the most part this project didn't disappoint as all.
This is The Smile's sophomore album, two years after their successful debut "A Light for Attracting Attention". If some of you may not know by now, the band consists of Radiohead's vocalist Thom York, guitarist Jonny Greenwood and Tom Skinner who's in charge of the drum work, the only member out of the three that wasn't in Radiohead.
Although I did like the band's debut overall, I felt like it was quite unfocused and inconsistent at the end of the day, and if I had to theoretically rank it among Radiohead's albums, it would've ranked rather low. However, this album is a clear improvement on all fronts for me, in terms of its production, songwriting, performances and ambition.
Production-wise, this is genuinely one of the most ambitious projects that Thom has worked on throughout his whole career. With lengthy songs compared to their average song length generally (Bending Hectic being Thom's longest song to date), and a daring blend of genres. It contains elements of post rock, prog rock, chamber pop, jazz rock and even some ambient touches here and there. These are genres that Thom and the band have barely touched before, maybe only on an album like Kid A/Amnesiac but that's more or less it. And they blended these unique elements seamlessly.
Because of its odd genre-blending, this record is much weirder in comparison to the band's debut. With bizarre time signatures, obscure song structures, complex rhythms and melodies, and intricate song progressions. However, the band is better for it in my opinion. The result is a much more immersive and intriguing experience, that is also more focused while being explosive on jarring crescendos and soothingly tender on intimate ballads. I also adore the eerily mesmerizing atmosphere of the album, and the amazing space between the instrumentals, it's loose yet captivating.
When it comes to Thom's vocal performances, I honestly think he killed it. Although I wasn't the biggest fan of his performances on their debut, because I thought he can get a tiny bit boring at times, here he is much more engaging and grabbing. With the years when he got older, he has gained some sort of an eerily whispery and slightly raspy vocal tone that actually suits him very well, especially here, when I feel like he really shines on every song. If it's a more delicate and ethereal vocal delivery like on the track "You Know Me!", or a more fiery one on "Read the Room".
Thematically, the album is quite obscure like its production for the most part. It moves between political songs such as Friend of a Friend which was written during COVID, against the poor judgments of our leaders with money, songs about our dystopian digital age on Wall of Eyes, and some more introspective tracks like I Quit or You Know Me!. Doesn't matter where the album leads us subject-wise, it stays incredibly engaging and refreshing on each turn.
I will say that my favorite song off the album is obviously the powerhouse of the tracklist, Bending Hectic. With beautifully hypnotic guitars and transcendent strings throughout its first half, building slowly into the grandest and most powerful passage of the album at the end of the second half, with aggressively crushing guitars, psychedelic keys and mind bending strings. It also contains some of my favorite lyrics on the entire record, about a man with a heavy mind and suicidal thoughts, driving his car to the edge of a mountain, but at the end he turns despite his destructive thoughts.
Thom's songwriting is stellar as well. I honestly thought that some of his writing on their debut was a little corny at times, with some cliches. But here it seems like he brought his A-game once again, with stunning metaphors, striking imagery and most importantly intriguing song subjects. It's easily his most well written album since A Moon Shaped Pool, captivating the listener with every portrait that he paints with his words elegantly.
I do think that the album has some lows though. Right when the title track Wall of Eyes came out as a single I thought it was pretty boring, because of its lack of interesting progression, and with more listens my opinion didn't change sadly. And the closer You Know Me! didn't really pull me in as much as I wanted it to as well. However other than these two underwhelming tracks most of the tracklist is exceptionally consistent with plenty of great songs.
Overall, Wall of Eyes is a fantastic album by The Smile. Much more consistent, ambitious, daring and engaging than its predecessor, with some of their most innovative material to date.
Favorite: Teleharmonic, Read the Room, Under Our Pillows, Friend of a Friend, I Quit, Bending Hectic
Least favorite: Wall of Eyes