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The Smile – Bending Hectic Review

Thom Yorke and friends will no doubt field call after call to bring back Radiohead. They are still kicking around, dormant for nearly a decade now, and The Smile means this is not set to change anytime soon. Bending Hectic, the latest single on the back of The Smile’s debut album, A Light for Attracting Attention, is one of the lingering qualities found in the Oxfordshire-based group. Jonny Greenwood tunes his guitar up for a release immortalised the old-fashioned way. Word of mouth. The spread Bending Hectic received following a debut appearance at a show last year is a tremendous example of how social media can bridge the gap and bring about a finer focus. The Smile hit on something truly wonderful here – though the Greenwood guitar flicks try and fail to steal the spotlight.  

Sounding as though he is, indeed, tuning his guitar in real-time, it is up to Yorke’s vocal performance to salvage this one. Perhaps this is harsh on Greenwood, but Tom Skinner puts an incredible shift in for the jazz-like percussion here. A winding eight-minute epic is a delight for Bending Hectic. Who doesn’t want a long and winding jazz production from Yorke, Greenwood and Skinner? Gliding through this at the end of the day, the heater not quite working and the sun already dipping before you had the chance to wake up, is a monumental experience. Bending Hectic is, after a ropey couple of minutes, an essential release. There is no two ways around it. This is a song which manages to shift its weight through a collection of genres without any spotty signs of changing tunes. 

Wailing strings are just as comfortable here as they are in the distance when Yorke springs to life and bleeds his heart out for the listener. When does he not? Early moments of this track may not impress – but the final third which sees Greenwood strike through with molten hot instrumental work – is hard to disregard. This trio are in fine form and The Smile is a burning thrill from start to finish, every listen a reawakening. A mighty event of a release, an Abbey Road Studios classic in the making the more the years go on. Bending Hectic is a conclusive classic – one where the rise and rise is as good as the storming conclusion. Patience is a virtue and for the sake of The Smile, it leads to some exceptional momentum behind whatever comes next – but we should expect nothing soon. 

Every artist should be given the chance to enlist the help of the London Symphony Orchestra. Well, not everyone. The Smile should surely be given chance and chance again to permanently use up their violins and whatever other string things are in store for the future. Bending Hectic could be it. There is an uncertainty which surrounds The Smile and, by extension, Radiohead. It keeps listeners on their toes and makes surprises such as Bending Hectic, an exceptional song in a year of powerful music, another piece to laud. When the days get shorter and you need the mid-day pickup and a nap isn’t possible – Bending Hectic is the saving grace. An eight-minute titan, an effort of real musical talent piecing themselves together with not a foot put wrong.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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