Album cover artwork for The Smile with black vinyl record popping outFollowing their surprise debut as part of Glastonbury Festival’s livestream-only 2021 edition (announced on the day and recorded in secret earlier that week), The Smile (Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood plus British jazz drummer Tom Skinner) finally release A Light For Attracting Attention almost a year later.

As well as the London Contemporary Orchestra, this record features a full brass section of contemporary UK jazz players including Skinner’s Sons of Kemet bandmate Theon Cross (tuba) and his brother Nathaniel (trombone).

“Please!/ We are all the same/ Please!/ We are one, the same” – opener The Same’s ominous, oscillating bleeps – different frequencies enlivening separate earbuds – catapult us into The Smile’s freakishly fantastic sonic orbit. The Opposite – the guitar-driven track that follows – boasts riffs like sirens, wonderfully showcases Skinner’s dexterity and also presents a counterargument: “It doesn’t mean anything.”

This album’s lead single, You Will Never Work in Television Again, is an angry l’il number – “Fear not my love, he’s a fat f-cking mist /Young bones spit out, girls slitting their wrists…” – containing enough ideas to flesh out into a double-album. Pana-vision, which was synced to the Peaky Blinders finale, features meandering piano and Yorke resplendent in crestfallen-crooner mode. “And without my shoes on/ Over broken glass/ I’m dancing for pennies/ I’m staring straight ahead” – so flaming poetic! And this song’s arrangement builds ever so subtly until we’re suddenly swept away in a vortex of strings.

A funky drum groove – played with Skinner’s unmistakable swing – perfectly complements The Smoke’s dubby, descending basslines before shimmering brass embellishments ascend and dominate.

Thin Thing – with rim clicks so crisp they could induce a tic – is quite possibly the most harrowing track you’ll ever hear: “First she’ll pull your fingers off/ And then she’ll pull your toes/ And then she’ll steal the photos from your phone.” And that stacks-on instrumental section would make the perfect soundtrack for escaping a serial killer. Thankfully, Open the Floodgates follows and washes over like a much-needed calming tonic with bubbling synth arpeggiators and sonorous keys. Another of this record’s rejuvenating palate cleansers arrives with Free in the Knowledge (“…that one day this will end”) – a reassuring, soaring orchestral acoustic ballad that calls to mind Silverchair’s World Upon Your Shoulders.

Elsewhere, the gentle guitar noodling of Speech Bubbles morphs into a celestial instrumental; Waving a White Flag’s prominent, persistent synth channels Jean-Michel Jarre; and the staticky undercurrent of We Don’t Know What Tomorrow Brings channels our collective anxiety about the future.

Closer Skrting on the Surface (previously performed by both Radiohead and Atoms for Peace) sees Yorke taking the role of doomsday prophet: “When we realise that we are broken, nothing mends.”

Of the band’s name, which was inspired by a Ted Hughes poem, Yorke has explained: “not the smile as in ha ha ha, the smile as in the guy who lies to you every day.” A Light for Attracting Attention is like a lighthouse illuminating perilous coastline – there’s cause for celebration amongst the bleakness.

These tracks wouldn’t jar within a Radiohead playlist, and that’s not just because Yorke’s vocals carry such a distinguished signature.

A Light for Attracting Attention by The Smile is out now via XL Recordings/ Remote Control.

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi