With The Smile, their new project, the Radiohead singer and guitarist seems to have chosen to experiment with complete freedom, without having to bear the heavy burden of a major name and the expectations that come with it. As a trio, with jazz drummer Tom Skinner, of the Kimmitt Sons group, Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood are more mobile and can, for example, perform without the risk of hype at more modest venues like the Philharmonie de Paris (3600 seats) last week (June 6 and 7), the opening of the Holiday Days Festival.
But we can count the smile (smile), we don’t bring it back. Born during confinement, because Thom and Johnny wanted to finish some songs together, The Smile didn’t turn Radiohead’s genius into merry men. Not tomorrow the day before, racy Tom York and shy Johnny Greenwood will perform upbeat music. A smile also should not be understood as a cheerful smile but “Like the smile of the man who lies to you every day‘,” identifies Thom Yorke.
The music of these two researches is above all an experimental laboratory, and more on stage than on disc – album Attention-grabbing light Released May 13th – As we quickly see at Philharmonie. In concert, devoid of the stringed parts of the contemporary London orchestra majestically dressed in the album, the songs sound more austere, in all their nudity and architectural audacity. As for the horn part of the disc, it is partly compensated for by saxophonist Robert Stillman, who appears in the first part.
On this Tuesday, June 7, the trio, who have been playing their album more or less in order, decided to start with a delicate song Bana VisionLess lead than the strong The same which the disc starts with. Thom settled on the piano, and Johnny in the background on the bass, just like the drummer, somewhat sober, whose soft touch we note. From the second title, the rhythm is seriously taken away something delicate For which Thom switches to the bass while Johnny grabs the guitar. The title has a very cinematic acceleration, like a car chase. It is impossible not to think about the fact that Johnny became adept at composing film music.
Throughout the concert, the latter was simply dazzling. Firstly because Johnny Greenwood, as an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, alternately plays guitar, bass, syncron, piano and ukulele, and even the latter two at the same time (one hand each!) Rumours. But above all because he shows amazing creativity with his guitar. As if he wanted to extract all the resources out of it, he considers his six strings from all angles, riveting them like double bass, playing them with a bow like Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin, making them abrasive or making them sound like an African Kura. All this without ostentation, and as usual, she constantly hides her look by the long black bangs hair curtain.
Not to be outdone, Thom Yorke regularly changes instruments – bass, guitar, piano – within 85 minutes of the show, but he is particularly creative in his instrument of choice which is his voice. He plays it on all records: angelic, heartbreaking, haunted or grouchy, with varied phrases, and sometimes a lot of echo. It’s strangely reminiscent of Neil Young on certain nicknames (influential free to know in particular) and remain populated and awkward even when you get stuck. His songs are like bottles thrown into the sea in a storm. Except that they do not ask for help, realizing that it is already too late. They notice, with pain or anger, the state of the world and its coming end.
Since the album wasn’t long enough to host a full concert, the group plays unreleased tracks (Laughing Bodies, Friend of a Friend, Fair Eyes and Mouth) And that evening he presents to the Parisian public the world premiere of color fly – “We’re trying it on stage for the first time, and we’ll see if it worksThe singer announces.
It’s a title that begins with an almost oriental guitar theme that turns into a sandstorm in which Robert Stillman’s saxophone sounds lost, while Thom sings oh Fixed who could be a Buddhist uncle. A convincing track although it’s free, it’s like krautrock with Can trials. He demonstrates that Tom Skinner is an outstanding drummer able to gracefully and flexibly ensure pinhead rotation and the boldest acceleration of the mod.
One thing is for sure, The Smile is a lot more rock than Radiohead’s latest album, High moon shaped pool It was released in 2016. There’s rock, post-rock, krautrock in this group, and even punk with the massive brulôt révolté. You will never work on TV again, hit angrily in conclusion before recalling. there is jazz (friend to friend) and groove also (Bodies laughing, smoke) in The Smile, less intelligent than the audience imagines, who listen to him religiously rather than letting themselves occasionally dance like Thom Yorke.
However, nothing can come out of the thigh of Radiohead, whose shadow has remained so strong here that one doubts its durability – after Thom Yorke’s various solo projects and the stellar film double score by Jonny Greenwood, is The Smiled just a recreation with no future or is it Announcing Slow Suffering for Radiohead, which hasn’t released an album in six years? Let’s rejoice anyway that these two, a rare case in rock history, never sleep on their laurels, escaping repetition and self-parody to move forward in music more than ever.
The Smile is on tour
June 24 in Reims (Fantastic Community Festival)
June 27 in Neumünster (Luxembourg)
July 11 in Nîmes (Festival de Nîmes)
July 12 in Montreux (Montreux Jazz Festival)
album Attention-grabbing light (XL Records / Beggars) was released on May 13
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