The Smile, made up of Radiohead members Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood along with Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner, have released their latest single, the darkly moody ‘Pana-vision’.
‘Pana-vision’, more so than any of the band’s previous material, seems to have Greenwood’s fingerprints all over it. Led by a delicate piano line, both string arrangements and horn arrangements begin to filter in, recalling the recent film scores that Greenwood has dedicated so much of his time to.
It’s impossible to not compare the band’s material to Radiohead, so let’s just get it out of the way right now. The Smile’s singles, whether intentionally or not, have been reading like a mini-history on Radiohead’s evolution, with their debut ‘You Will Never Work in Television Again’ getting back to the guitar-rock roots of Yorke and Greenwood. The follow-up, ‘The Smoke’, was more airy and jazzy, situated somewhere between Kid A and Amnesiac.
Then came ‘Skirting on the Surface’, with its arpeggiated guitar lines and atypical drum rhythms that sounded like they were straight out of In Rainbows. Just to continue the overarching comparisons, that would make ‘Pana-vision’ most analogous to A Moon Shaped Pool, with its delicate piano lines and melancholic atmosphere. There’s also something sinister that seems to lurk just beneath the surface, heightened by the increasing intensity of the horn lines as the song peaks.
Of course, The Smile are a completely different band than Radiohead. Just because they happen to share members doesn’t mean that they sound anything alike, even if Yorke’s signature bray is impossible to associate with anyone other than Radiohead. For those listeners griping about why this material couldn’t have been new Radiohead music, ‘Pana-vision’ sounds the most like the recent sonic stylings of the world’s most beloved experimental rockers.
The new track is the most nebulous track that The Smile have officially released so far. Thanks to the pedigree of the three central musicians in charge of its creation, there are plenty of fascinating rabbit holes to fall down in the arrangement, including Yorke’s impressionistic lyrics, the dense orchestral lines, and the twisting rhythms that Skinner lays down. Anyone who might have seen The Smile as Yorke and Greenwood’s return to guitar-based rock music, ‘Pana-vision’ is the first single with no detectable guitar in it at all.
Check out the visualiser for ‘Pana-vision’ down below. Still no word on whether we’re getting a full-length album or not, but we’ll just have to keep listening to find out.