Friday, 3 December 2010
If ever there was a band that split the music community, it was the Moz and Marr cooperative (Manchester division). On the one hand there was (and still is) a hardcore following of fanatical devotion and on the other, a bevy of critical and equally fanatical Moz-haters with me sort of in the middle ground but with leanings towards the devotees.
Actually, I’ve become more of a fan as the years have gone by but it was only recently whilst I transferred all my Smiths vinyl LPs to MP3 files that I have undertaken a proper retrospective. And the findings have been not quite what I expected. Back in the day, I bought each album as it arrived and rather leaned towards the earlier works like ‘The Smiths’, ‘Hatful of Hollow’ and ‘Meat is Murder’. By the time ‘The Queen is Dead’ arrived my interest was waning and when ‘Strangeways Here We Come’ was released I very nearly ignored it.
Undoubtedly, as a complete body of work, you really can’t fault it. The marriage of Marr’s complex guitar driven melodies and Morrissey’s grimly realistic kitchen sink lyrics is a gift that doesn’t get offered too often. It is simply like no other song writing partnership before or since. Then add in the killer rhythm section of Joyce and Rourke and it’s difficult to see how they could’ve gone wrong.
Listening to the albums again in sequence my initial view that the early stuff is best still holds but only for ‘Hatful of Hollow’ the compilation of BBC sessions, which remains their finest hour by a big margin. The playing, enforced by the live session environment, is tight and crisp and the material exemplary. Funnily enough, I now find the early studio albums a bit bland and have begun to appreciate the later ones more. In particular, ‘Strangeways’, the album that almost didn’t get bought, I now find is very listenable indeed.
So, I’m still a big fan of The Smiths, but not in the same way that I once was. ‘Hatful of Hollow’ is still the album to buy, but where I would’ve pointed newcomers to the early studio albums, I am now going suggest ‘Strangeways’ and possibly ‘The Queen is Dead’. Just don’t ask me again in another ten years as I’ll probably have changed my mind again.
Here's 'William, It Was Really Nothing' which just aches with 80s nostalgia.