Michigan State University Student Radio

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Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

I Spy With My Several Eyes | “Wall of Eyes” by The Smile


Do you ever feel like you’re being watched? You fidget in place as the hairs on your arm stand up, your shirt sitting funny on your back. Does my shirt look stupid? Maybe the tag is sticking out. Oh! Maybe my backpack is unzipped and something’s fallen out. No? Does my jacket have a stain on it? You look down. No. Then, what is it? Turning your head, you search for the observer you sensed. Something’s wrong; something’s off. Yet, there’s no one. Everyone around you is just staring at their phones — self-centered and self-absorbed. They could be judging you, and you’d never know.

Nobody grapples with the human condition so thoughtfully as the master Thom Yorke does. At this point, he’s a household name. He’s frontman of Radiohead, arguably one of the most influential rock bands ever. I mean, they made “Creep”! But Yorke is fiercely determined to let his longevity outlast his youth legacy. Nearly 30 years into his career, Yorke finds himself in a new creative outlet. Composed of himself, Radiohead’s lead guitarist, Johnny Greenwood, and talented drummer, Tom Skinner, The Smile debuted their first LP A Light For Attracting Attention in 2022. New material and old Radiohead scraps come together to create a sound that takes elements of past rhythm-heavy tracks — “Lotus Flower” and “Separator” —, floaty strings and tight guitar.

Following Yorke’s car crash off the mountainside on “Bending Hectic” in June — man, Yorke really has a bad time with crashes —, we get a clue into what might have driven that car over the edge. “Wall of Eyes” released on Nov. 13 and is the self-titled track off of The Smile’s newly announced album. With Yorke’s signature vocal performance caked with just the right amount of reverb and a unique instrumental, a near-bossa nova sound emerges. A delicate guitar that drifts like a ukulele played on a tropical island creates a false sense of security before the sinister strings detail something frightening at hand. 

Yorke softly sings of an omnipotent entity that observes him from afar, something perhaps made of his own creation. He implies that everyone does this, creating a made-up scenario of observation, judging the world and everyone around you. He’s battling with an internal voice, questioning whether or not it’s still truly him if he builds a wall to hide from the judgment of everyone else to judge others himself. He belts with grit, trying to stay focused on the present. Solemnly, Yorke repeats to himself that he can’t escape the gaze of the world.

“Let us raise our glasses /

To what we don’t deserve /

Or what we’re not worthy of.”

Cynicism appears in his dry sarcasm. We hold ourselves up, full of pride even when we really didn’t earn it. The constant sense of all eyes on you shakes you around, a persistent struggle to appear fine on the surface. If we judge others for who they are from afar, is it really fair for us to celebrate our own characteristics? Maybe, Yorke is suggesting we don’t deserve to ever build an ego, for we all experience the same struggles from time to time. He comments on the nature of time pushing us along, comparing it to the same glass we might raise over and over to celebrate our happiest moments in life. Reminiscent of the heart breaking pleas against time on past tracks — “True Love Waits” and “Present Tense” —, Yorke tries to stay grounded.

Counting repeatedly to himself, you wonder whether this is a display of data for the persistent eyes that watch him or an attempt to ground himself, focusing on the ever-moving passage of time. Yorke doesn’t always find success in staying away from the eyes that watch over him. I mean, do any of us? Sometimes there’s going to be an itch on your shoulder or a shiver up your spine. You can’t escape judgment — you can’t stand on the fence or hide behind a wall. It might always find you no matter where you are, so you better strap yourself in.

If you like this track, make sure to hear The Smile’s sophomore release, Wall of Eyes, when it drops on Jan. 26, 2024.

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About the Contributor
Ryan Wilbert, Writer
Ryan Wilbert (he/him) is a freshman at MSU studying Information Science. He is usually found either playing his guitar or eating Crunch bars from the Sparty’s markets. His favorite artists include Car Seat Headrest, Radiohead and Arctic Monkeys, accounting for a good portion of his CD collection. “The ocean washed over your grave.” - Car Seat Headrest

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