ARTIST: The Smiths
TITLE: The Smiths
YEAR RELEASED: 1984
CHART ACTION: #150 US, #2 UK
SINGLES: Hand in Glove (#124 UK), This Charming Man (#25 UK), What Difference Does It Make (#12 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Reel Around the Fountain, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Still Ill
LINEUP: Morrissey, Johnny Marr, Andy Rourke, Mike Joyce. Paul Carrack played keyboards. Yes, that Paul Carrack.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Touchstone UK independent band releases first album, with bright shiny guitars and mopey vocals or brilliantly dour minor key guitars and mopey vocals.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Already famous (or infamous, depending) in the UK thanks to some early singles, the Smiths release their first album to a thunderous UK reception. Influenced by so much, but unique in their own sound, the Smiths’ debut encapsulates everything that’s riveting AND annoying about the band.
Many of the cuts are great, especially the more up-tempo ones. You can hear Marr’s work on the fretboard and the great backing from Rourke and Joyce (always underrated), and Morrissey’s vocals are spot on, even if they lyrics are a bit of a head scratcher at first (but after a while it becomes clear, just gotta ponder them).
The frustrating part is when the band moves at a glacial pace – they become ponderous and pretentious. Also, the sequencing of the record is odd (it seems always odd with the Smiths). I wouldn’t have started with the great but downtempo “Reel Around the Fountain”. I may have flipped it for the last song on the first side (“This Charming Man”), though that may be a bit obvious. And the album closer, the infamous “Suffer Little Children”, is not a way to go out.
But those really are minor quibbles. Most of this backs up the Smiths’ reputation.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: They had recorded an entire album’s worth of songs, but they were scrapped. Morrissey still didn’t like this version, but it had to be released.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No – any B-sides or extra songs are on the numerous Smiths’ anthologies.
GRADE: A-: Sequencing issues and a couple of less than stellar cuts, but still a fantastic debut.