Category: The Smiths

The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead

ARTIST: The Smiths The-Queen-is-Dead-cover

TITLE:  The Queen Is Dead

YEAR RELEASED: 1986

CHART ACTION: #70 US, #2 UK

SINGLES: The Boy with the Thorn in His Side (#49 US Dance, #23 UK), Bigmouth Strikes Again (#26 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW:  The Queen Is dead, Cemetry Gates, There Is a Light That Never Goes Out

LINEUP: Morrissey, Johnny Marr, Andy Rourke, Mike Joyce

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Smiths reach their pinnacle, uniting band performance, Marr’s melodies and Morrissey’s lyrics. Even the ‘filler’ is top notch.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Smiths had teased us before, writing almost complete albums with a couple of mediocre or clunkers on it, but this time they succeeded on all fronts.

Morrissey’s vocals blend well with Marr’s guitar work. Marr’s guitars are frankly stunning as each track has something to recommend in terms of guitar melodies, tone, or riffs. Joyce and Rourke definitely pull their weight as well, solidly playing with Marr and forming a definite base for the song to move through.

Are we really concerned that Morrissey’s lyrics are at times obtuse, possibly inane? Nah. His vocals are compelling and moving. This is a band effort though, song and performance working together.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There’s some odd, high-pitched vocals on two tracks. It’s Morrissey’s vocals sped up, and credited to “Ann Coates”

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes! A huge re-release with demos and live cuts.

GRADE: A+: All of the tracks are strong. This album grows on you, too. It’s a classic.

 

The Smiths – Meat is Murder

ARTIST: The Smiths 220px-MeatMurder

TITLE:  Meat is Murder

YEAR RELEASED: 1985

CHART ACTION: US #110, UK #1

SINGLES: How Soon Is Now? (US Dance #36, UK #24), That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore (#49 UK), Barbarism Begins at Home

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The Headmaster Ritual

LINEUP: Morrissey, Johnny Marr, Andy Rourke, Mike Joyce

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A confident band releases their second album on the back of great non-album singles.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Smiths kicked into high gear. Marr and Rourke created a great guitar and bass unit that proved to be versatile in many styles and idoms, while Morrissey let loose with his most pointed set of lyrics yet.

Over most of the album it’s a very tight, taut band, with every element working well. Even the gloomier songs have aren’t as dour and doom-laden as they had been. There’s definitely better tracks and juts OK tracks but overall it’s solid.

Then there’s the final cut – the title track. I always used to eject the CD or skip it on my iPod. It’s better than I remember but still no way to end an album. Really, I don’t think a pop star will ever affect my eating habits.

NOTES & MINUTAE: “How Soon Is Now”, probably the most heard songs by the Smiths in the US, wasn’t originally on the album – it was merely a B-side. It was added onto the US and Canada version when it became a dance club hit.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION:  No, unless you count the version with “How Soon Is Now” deluxe!

GRADE: A-: The title track brings it down, but in reality you can just zap it out of your library.

 

The Smiths – The Smiths

ARTIST: The Smiths 220px-The_Smiths_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.