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The Sunflower

REVIEW: The Smile mesmerizes with the beauty of new album ‘Wall of Eyes’

Photo+courtesy+of+Self+Help+Tapes
Photo courtesy of Self Help Tapes

The Smile has arrived with their new album, “Wall of Eyes,” to take a Radiohead-like sound and go in a completely new direction with it. “Wall of Eyes” is their sophomore album, following the band’s debut, “A Light for Attracting Attention,” which came out in 2022. The songs on “Wall of Eyes” take the art and experimental rock from its predecessor and dish out a solid record. 

The main themes in “Wall of Eyes” surround the fact that however anyone expresses themself, they are judged before by a sea of people — a wall of eyes. From this comes the feelings of isolation and being misunderstood. Given that these concepts are thought up by Radiohead alums, Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood, and Tom Skinner of The Smile, it takes the somber themes of Radiohead into a different, dire perspective, reflecting on their status as established celebrities. 

The title track, “Wall of Eyes,” introduces this idea with its beautifully plucked acoustic guitar, which has a disgruntled undertone. It portrays a feeling that, while standing around with a cheerful expression, a feeling of unsettlement creeps up and will overtake. The song keeps an eerie tone as the track adds crescendos of keyboards, adding that that unpleasant feeling has arrived with its full force. However, the acoustic is still resonating in the foreground, so that happy-go-lucky exterior for the wall of eyes hasn’t dwindled. 

The track “Teleharmonic,” starts with the line: “Will I make the morning? I don’t know.” Now, the unsettlement has been acknowledged. “Teleharmonic” has the feeling of being lost at sea, within the wall of eyes. It takes that feeling and isolates Yorke’s voice into an ambiance of bubbling anxiety. The lyrics talk about being captured by “fishermen” out of revenge and being nailed for display. Yorke sings this not out of fear, but out of acceptance. It is clear that this recognition is a comforting cycle for Yorke, given that the song is a soft and easy listen. 

“Read the Room” is where the album begins to show its faults. Although the first third of the song is the catchiest part of the whole album, a four-note chord progression is played with the tenacity to strike anger and fear at the wall of eyes. Yorke sings a powerful lyric of accusing the eyes in a passive aggressive manner of being unjust of being better people. The song changes up two different times as the lyrics go inward with Yorke questioning himself for challenging the eyes and him being directly judged by the eyes. 

These two changes within the experimental/art rock genre create two mesmerizing musical passages. My biggest issue with this is that the change-ups are too jarring, as they occur instantaneously instead of blending into one another. The same occurrence happens on “A Friend of a Friend,” though it isn’t as jarring. “A Friend of a Friend” is a return to the serene atmosphere introduced in the track “Wall of Eyes.” It isthe most serene song on the album, because even though the wall of eyes is still there staring, friends have come out to help Yorke face them. It is a beautiful song about unity with a sad note of having to keep up appearances. The wall of eyes could also represent the comfort of loved ones watching out for you.

“I Quit” enters a realm of acknowledging bitterness. Here, the eyes have got Yorke giving up on him presenting himself to them. He then proclaims of going a new path and he will accept wherever it goes. It would be a beautiful and perfect closer, but it isn’t the final track on the album. The final track is called “You Know Me!,” and it is luckily and easily the best song on the whole album. It is a piano ballad played to brain-tingling perfection. Not only do the chords feel like being enveloped and sent on a luscious drift down a wafting river on a spring evening, but also proclaims Yorke’s most ethereal singing voice on the entire album. It talks about how someone doesn’t know Yorke as well as they think, while being so close to him. It makes me think the eyes have gotten into his head completely, as if they are thinking they are his friend, which would make him turn away from someone he cares about. However, there is a line about being literally backstabbed which could be taken in the literal and figurative sense. If it is the literal sense, then the betrayal could’ve been someone close to him who was a part of the judging wall of eyes. 

This album showcases another creative direction for The Smile. With their debut being more groovy, stylish and covering a wide field of genres, “Wall of Eyes” takes a more centrally structured and melodic swing. I recommend this album to anyone willing to give time to understand the musical genius of The Smile and their ability to make the best music of dark subjects, and also to long-time Radiohead fans like myself. 

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About the Contributor
Tyler Guthrie, Columnist
Tyler Guthrie is a second-year columnist with The Sunflower. He is a creative writing major with a Spanish minor from El Dorado, Kansas. Guthrie uses he/him pronouns.

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