Radiohead side project The Smile have stopped by NPR to play one of the station’s iconic Tiny Desk Concerts with fantastic results.
Few things are more beloved by music nerds than Radiohead and NPR Tiny Desk Concerts, with the former being one of the modern era’s most influential and critically acclaimed bands, and the latter being arguably the web’s most iconic home of intimate live performances. That’s why it’s so exciting to see Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood stop by NPR’s Washington D.C. offices with their new band The Smile for a Tiny Desk performance.
Filmed late last year and released this week, the Tiny Desk Concert saw The Smile’s Yorke, Greenwood and Tom Skinner (of Sons of Kemet fame) joined by guest saxophonist Robert Stillman to perform three songs from their debut album A Light for Attracting Attention.
Seeing a famously brooding musician like Yorke performing in the well-lit, colourful and intimate Tiny Desk office corner is initially quite jarring, but – as with everything Yorke and his collaborators touch – they put in the time and thought to make the new format work and work well.
As NPR’s Bob Boilen writes, the band arrived early “to test out several tunes and figure out just what made sense behind my desk — minus the volume and effects that shape the album’s sonic landscape.”
The tracks that ended up making the cut were Pana-vision, The Smoke and Skrting On The Surface. A fourth song was initially recorded but Yorke requested it be cut because – true to his famously perfectionist nature – he didn’t believe it worked well enough to make the final video. The cut song is hinted at in the final product when a Fender Jazzmaster York picks up after Pana-vision is swapped for a Mustang bass in a hard cut.
The full NPR Tiny Desk Concert with The Smile is embedded below.
Last month The Smile dropped an equally great live album titled The Smile At Montreux Jazz Festival, you can read more about that live album here.