Tuesday, April 05, 2022

The Smile set expectations high with ‘Skrting On The Surface’

Prompting endless discussions of Radiohead’s demise or supposed reincarnation, The Smile continue their parade of singles, via XL Recordings, with ‘Skrting On The Surface’ - their best release to date.

In some ways the latest single warrants comparisons, given that the trio unearths an unreleased Radiohead cut, first debuted live during the ‘OK Computer’ era. But The Smile, comprised of Radiohead’s illustrious Jonny Greenwood and Thom Yorke with Tom Skinner (drummer for Sons of KemetMelt Yourself Down), are a force to be reckoned with in their own right.


It’s not the first time we’ve heard this iteration of ‘Skrting On The Surface’, the track featured during The Smile’s live broadcasted shows back in January. But Nigel Goodrich’s infinitely underappreciated production, his best work since ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’s ‘Daydreaming’, elevates the single to tantalising new heights.


It is unsurprising that a project featuring Radiohead’s driving duo sounds like them. And ‘Skrting On The Surface’ does so in all the best ways: their penchant for unique time signatures resurfaces; Yorke’s iridescent lyricism is as beautiful as ever; and a chamber orchestra adds grandeur to the sound, reflecting Greenwood’s classical music background. Just like ‘In Rainbows’, the meticulously crafted multi-layered composition is addictive, with every listen unveiling a new element to pull you back in: the arpeggiated guitars that chase each other in polymetric rhythm, the wind instruments that cascade the second half, or the strings that propel the track into its all-too-soon outro. Stop, rewind, and play: on and on the treasure hunt goes.


If anything, The Smile seems to be a culmination of everything Radiohead and more; embodying the spirit of great musicians who, even decades into their career, are tirelessly honing their craft. Their music pulsates with life and pushes at the bounds of the art form. The released singles alone reflect the post-punk, art-rock, West-African funk, and jazz influences that too punctuate the artists’ catalogue. Yorke’s lyricism embodies the maturity displayed throughout ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ and Greenwood’s experience scoring films (‘Power of the Dog’, ‘Spencer’, ‘There Will Be Blood’) lends a cinematic soundscape to the tracks.


Do not be fooled by the Radiohead-esque descriptions—The Smile is a product of Yorke, Greenwood, Skinner and Godrich’s entire artistic evolution, and has all the potential to surpass its members’ previous projects. With the full album’s arrival imminent, ‘Skrting On The Surface’ has, to say the least, set expectations high.


Watch the video for ‘Skrting On The Surface’ here, directed by Mark Jenkins (Bait, Bronco’s House).



Elina Ganatra


Image: ‘ Skrting On The Surface’ Official Single Cover


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