DISCOGRAPHY: The Smiths
It was only a matter of time before I thoroughly talked about The Smiths. I understand their wide audience and popularity and while I like to expose new music, it is rewarding to bring back nostalgia or introduce great older bands that influenced many to new listeners. The Smiths formed in 1982 by vocalist/lyricist Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr. They shortly recruited Mike Joyce as the drummer and Andy Rourke as the bassist. Morrissey is most well known for his often humorous takes on unrequited love. Morrissey made the lyrics and Marr made the music, it was often as simple as that. Through their six year career, they released four classic albums (and many memorable b-sides). Their self-titled debut album came in 1984 during the awakening of synth-pop, where bands such as Depeche Mode and Gary Numan were at the top of the charts. The Smiths ushered in a new sound, which was labeled as a variety of names from the silly “college post-punk alternative” to the straightforward “indie rock”. Whatever genre you define it as, The Smiths are arguably the most influential band in the past twenty years. Morrissey now has a successful solo career with a new album released this year. Johnny Marr has collaborated with many artists, most notably in the super group Electronic with New Order’s Bernard Sumner. He now is apparently an official member of Modest Mouse. The Smiths will most likely never reunite (they were offered $5 million at Coachella this year, but declined), but they will always live on.
The Smiths (1984)
This would be my favorite album of all time. I could easily stop there, as the album is virtually flawless to me personally, but I won’t. I found that it came at a time in my life in which I could seemingly relate with every word that Morrissey spoke in the album, as it was at a time where he wasn’t mocking himself. The album instantly received acclaim from the press and the band was thrown into the spotlight. Morrissey’s clever wordplay and Marr’s impeccable guitar skills were first demonstrated to the world with this classic. ‘Reel Around The Fountain’ holds a place in every Smiths fan’s heart, as it opens the album and is one of the most beautifully written songs on it as well. Though the lyrics are quite sexually charged, Morrissey’s outstanding vocal range makes it seem like the sweetest of love songs. ‘This Charming Man’ originally did not appear on the original version of the album, but after the single received so much acclaim, it was rightfully put on. The album is full of lyrical controversies, most notably ‘Suffer Little Children’ which dealt with the infamous Moors Murders. Though it was actually sung in a sympathetic tone, the press (always looking for a juicy story) turned it around with such absurd stories, such as calling Morrissey a pedophile. Other notable songs of controversy include ‘Hand In Glove’, which was straightforwardly about homosexuality, which caused yet another stir. Mix controversy with outstanding and creative music and you will certainly get noticed, and Morrissey sure loved the attention. One of most underrated Smiths songs happens to be ‘I Don’t Owe You Anything’. It may very well be my favorite song from the band, as it’s lyrical descriptions mean an incredible amount to me sentimentally. In fifty years, The Smiths’ debut album will still be considered as one of the greatest albums of all time.
Meat Is Murder (1985)
In the age before sophomore slumps, The Smiths released their second album Meat Is Murder without hesitation, calling on a bit more diversity. Though the album obviously never reached the heights of the debut, it had some outstanding songs. Songs such as ‘The Headmaster Ritual’ and ‘How Soon Is Now?’ are creative and catchy in their own ways, with the outstanding traditional ‘I Want The One I Can’t Have’ expressing a fuller guitar sound with Morrissey’s typically straightforward lyrics of love and loss. ‘Rusholme Ruffians’ is the only song that does nothing for me on the album, as the beautifully done ‘Well I Wonder’ and the pointlessly lyrical but excitingly played ‘Nowhere Fast’ are more examples of The Smiths’ up and coming diversity.
The Queen Is Dead (1986)
The Queen Is Dead is considered The Smiths’ best album from a countless number of media sources. Many Smiths fans though, including myself, consider it to be the second best (next to their self-titled debut). Songs such as ‘I Know It’s Over’ are absolutely untouchable lyrically and musically. The song is a true example of a classic as the (nearly) six minutes of the song pass by in a heartbeat. ‘Frankly, Mr. Shankly’ is completely the opposite of ‘I Know It’s Over’ in terms of structure, as it’s short and fast-paced song with jokingly lyrics, but it has just the same effect of staying in your head. ‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’ is another classic, which still is a favorite when Morrissey plays it live. This was clearly their most diverse effort in their career, from the acoustically charged ‘Vicar in a Tutu’ to the charming bursts of ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’. Morrissey’s lyrics were also at an all-time high for the album, with a countless number of witty verses that complement each song with an undying passion.
Strangeways, Here We Come (1987)
The Smiths’ fourth and final album boasted a new very modern and expensive production method, though producer Stephen Street was still in front. The ghostly opener in ‘A Rush and a Push and the Land Is Ours’ mixes eccentric keys with Morrissey’s erotic-like slurs, summing up what he has been doing so well in the previous three albums, as he basically moans, “Oh, but don’t mention love. I’d hate the strain of the pain again” with rhyme after rhyme of British wit and excellence. ‘I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish’ is one of the band’s final ventures into glam, and it is fantastically done with a very boasting chorus. Morrissey’s humor is especially provoking in songs such as ‘Unhappy Birthday’ where he taunts someone who isn’t particularly well rounded with, “you’re evil and you lie, and if you should die, I may feel slightly sad but I won’t cry”. The epic ‘Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me’ is especially stunning as well. Though the final three tracks in the album lack the usual flavor, Strangeways, Here We Come is an appropriate way to end a prolific career.
Notable Other Songs:
- I Don
- Johnny Marr
- titled debut album