The Smiths Album Reviews

The unlikely pairing of socially awkward Steven Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr, extroverted and four years Morrissey’s junior, formed the nucleus of The Smiths, whose witty and stripped down music was an influential force throughout their brief existence. Inspired by punk (according to legend, Morrissey’s musical epiphany can be traced back to the same Sex Pistols concert that also inspired members of The Buzzcocks and Joy Division), they gave themselves a bland name to differentiate themselves from exotically named synth-pop acts A Flock Of Seagulls and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

Johnny Marr’s arpeggios and jangly Byrds’ derived textures are the most noteworthy instrumental feature of the group’s sound. A lot of the emphasis is on vocalist Morrissey, who’s alternately a campy lovelorn crooner and a consummately English wit. This enigmatic approach does create problems – often the upbeat, humorous songs are stronger than the mournful dirges, and it’s sometimes difficult to know when he’s serious and when he’s ironic.

The Smiths’ discography is quite messy – a lot of their best songs are on singles, so the compilations Hatful of Hollow and The World Won’t Listen are two of their strongest efforts. Unfortunately those two albums also share eight tracks in common, so there’s a bit of redundancy. I think they only really reached their potential as an album band on 1986’s The Queen Is Dead, but at the same time almost everything they recorded in their short lifespan is worth hearing. My first Smiths’ album was 1995’s Singles compilation; while it’s an almost perfect collection of Indie pop, it leaves out too many essential songs to be an effective summation of The Smiths’ discography.

Ten Favourite Songs by The Smiths

William, It Was Really Nothing
How Soon Is Now?
Shoplifters Of The World Unite
The Boy with the Thorn in His Side
There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
Cemetery Gates
Girlfriend in a Coma
Frankly, Mr. Shankly
Ask
Bigmouth Strikes Again