Album reviews: The Smile, Saxon, Frank Carter and NewDad | Music | Entertainment

The Smile: Wall Of Eyes.

Like a cheating husband, Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood are investing more energy on their ‘bit on the side’ than on Radiohead these days.

This is the second album from the Paranoid Android stars, aided and abetted by drummer Tom Skinner and producer Sam Petts-Davies. And they’ve broadened their palette, including touches of psychedelia and a string section – courtesy the London Contemporary Orchestra – as well as modern jazz.

Friend Of A Friend starts as a dreamy ballad but meets strings so psychotic you could imagine the climax accompanying a particularly gruesome slow-motion movie murder scene.

The unsettling Read The Room begins at a leisurely pace over subtle piano before building into krautrock. More worrying for Radiohead fans are the lyrics. Thom sings: ‘And when the end has come, maybe you can’t, maybe you can’t be arsed for half a million…’

So, is The Smile a labour of love for Yorke and Greenwood or an escape hatch?

Only time will tell. They certainly feel freer and less constrained by expectations. Like prog rock of the 70s, this is music that aspires to be taken seriously – it’s a mighty long way from pop.

The eight tracks kick off with the relatively upbeat title track which becomes more disturbing as the synth kicks in. The eight-minute Bending Hectic starts like an ethereal dream but builds into something so cacophonous some listeners might think more kindly of The Birdie Song. Recorded at Abbey Road, this track is longer and more winding than any road the Beatles trod.

The funky Under Our Pillows, powered by Jonny’s guitar riff, is close to jazz fusion, while the closer You Know Me is relatively sweet. The slothful Teleharmonic, as heard on Peaky Blinders, packs in flute and finds Yorke asking “Where are you taking me?”

It’s what all Radiohead fans want to know.

Saxon: Hell, Fire & Damnation.

Barnsley’s “big teasers” are back, taking a joyful ten-track trip to rock’s headbanging past. Their 24th album sounds utterly reinvigorated with riffs heavier than a lorryload of lead. Guitars rage, Biff Byford’s vocals soar, and historical sagas worthy of Maiden abound. All this and Brian Blessed on the scene-setting opener too.

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes: A Dark Rainbow.

The ex-Gallows frontman delivers his most refined album to date. This ranges from eerie but exciting rockers like Honey to the more melodic Man Of The Hour. Varied moods and tempos create space for goth drama, brains, and reflection. Highs include American Spirit’s seductive riff and the almost jaunty Happier Days.

NewDad: MADRA.

From the west coast of Ireland, the critically acclaimed foursome are fronted by Galway girl Julia Dawson who lends graceful vocals to the band’s fuzzy-guitar indie-pop sound.

They’ve been likened to The Pixies but tracks like Angel and In My Head are arguably closer to Dundalk’s shoegaze revivalists Just Mustard.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *