The Smiths
Strangeways, Here We Come


4.0
excellent

Review

by Amanda Murray STAFF
January 16th, 2005 | 20 replies | 6,272 views


Release Date: 1987 | Tracklist


The Smiths had released what is still considered to be their best album, The Queen is Dead, about a year earlier. It featured Morrissey at his wittiest, saddest, and some might even say peak. Johnny Marr was brilliant in his compositions, and Rourke and Joyce came through as always. There were doubts that the Smiths could top that album. And try as they might, the Smiths did not top it. Strangeways is a brilliant album, don't doubt it. It features some of Marr's best compositions, and it features a fairly new direction for the Smiths, all well staying fairly close to the formula that has worked so well (amazing songs combined with excellent lyrics). But it didn't match the brilliance shown on Queen, which some say was unmatchable.

Strangeways was the final studio album that the Smiths ever recorded (though they did release a live album, Rank, a year later). This album was recorded in the spring of 1987, and the most accurate sources that I could find state that Johnny Marr left the Smiths in May of 1987. There are numerous reasons stated for his departure. Some state that it was Morrissey's decline to participate in keyboards/synthesizers etc. (he despised dance music), though Marr was eager to experiment. Other reasons include Morrissey's reported inability to work with others, and his cockiness/pretentiousness etc. These were most likely the two major factors, though other reasons are also rumoured. This album was released in the fall of 1987, after the Smiths had broken up. It is unfortunate because it shows that they were in fact growing musically, and one can only wonder what the next Smiths' album would have been like.

A Rush and a Push and the Land is Ours
The opening track, it starts off with airy vocals and rather dreamy, ambient sounds. Morrissey's first words on the record? The ever appropriate "hello". This is very catchy, bouncy tune, it is almost impossible not to tap your foot along to it. Morrissey decided for some reason that growling would be an interesting thing to do on this record (as we already experienced with his random squawks on Meat is Murder), and it adds a humorous air to the song. This isn't exactly a deep song, just a nice pop song. Its title is taken from an Irish "battle cry" for Independence, if I remember correctly. There isn't much special lyrically here. Personally I love the song, but I can recognize that it isn't genius, especially for Morrissey/Marr's standards, so this gets:
4/5

I Started Something I Couldn't Finish
This is about as "rocking" as the Smiths were likely to get. Another incredibly catchy song, this one features nice guitar work by Marr. Some clever lyrics all around from Morrissey ("hair brushed and parted/typical me, typical me"). Once again this is a song that I find to be incredibly catchy, but it isn't tremendous in any aspects. For those of you who already own the album, at the end of the song Morrissey says: "Shall we do it again, Stephen?" referring to Stephen Street, the producer. Of course, whether they did it again or not doesn't matter, as this it the final version we were blessed with:
4/5

Death of a Disco Dancer
This is one of the songs that people name-drop in their "Morrissey is a racist" argument. The reason? Disco dancers... some of them were black. And when he says "the death of a disco dancer/ it happens a lot round here [...] I'd rather not get involved", people took that as being racist. I don't see it at all, but meh. As for the song, it is very sparse musically until the end - and then it just keeps going and going. This song features Morrissey's only musical contribution on a Smiths record, playing the same three notes (not well either) on the piano. At least he tried, right? But this song could have done a lot better if they had cut some of the outro, it just drones on.
4/5, though the outro brings it down a bit.

Girlfriend in a Coma
I think it would be safe to call this Smiths song a classic. It features Morrissey's clever lyrics perhaps better than any other song on this album:

Girlfriend in a coma, I know
I know it's really serious
There were times when I could
Have murdered her
(but you know I would hate
anything to happen to her)
no I don't want to see her
Do you really think
She'll pull through?


It's funny stuff, in a dark, witty sense. It features poppy guitar work by Marr, which contrasts the dark nature of the lyrics. Brilliant stuff. It clocks in at just over 2 minutes, another short and sweet composition from Morrissey/Marr.
5/5

Stop Me if You Think You've Heard This One Before
One of the coolest titles ever, so that's a good start to this song. I have trouble critiquing this, because it is such a darn catchy song that I struggle to find any negative aspects in it. This was supposed to be a single, but was rejected by the label because the line "mass murder" could have potentially offended due to recent serial killings that had occurred (I don't know the details, I was 1 at the time). This is an incredibly catchy song, it gets stuck in your head and just won't leave. It has some more awesome Morrissey lyrics:

I still love you, oh I still love you
Only slightly less than I used to (my love)

I crashed down on the crossbar
And the pain was enough
To make a shy, bald Buddhist reflect
And plan a mass murder


Yes, Mozza was indeed in top lyrical form. I have no complaints at all with this song, I absolutely love it.
5/5

Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me
This song begins with a nearly 2 minute intro of the same piano chords being played over and over, and a crowd cheering in the background. Hardly listenable the first time, downright irritating every subsequent time. But other than that terrible intro, this is another great song. This is more "ballady" than anything, a slow song, but with a heavy beat. It has rather simple lyrics, but they work well:

Last night I dreamt
That somebody loved me
No hope - no harm
Just another false alarm


I do like this song a lot, but it isn't the strongest on the album.
4/5, and this time the intro brings it down a bit.

Unhappy Birthday
Their first major misstep. While this isn't a terrible song by any means, it just lacks that.. charm that so many Smiths songs have. Of course it fits the formula: nice guitar pop from Marr, adequate back up from Rourke and Joyce, funny lyrics from Moz:

I've come to wish you an unhappy birthday
Because you're evil and you lie
And if you should die
I may feel slightly sad
(but I won't cry)


Honestly, Morrissey is the only guy that can pull of lie/die/cry, and not make it sound like 12 year old poetry. But something about the song just isn't that good. Standard fare, not much else to say.
3/5

Paint a Vulgar Picture
This is one of those ironic songs that only a guy like Morrissey can pull off. If you have any knowledge of the Smiths music, whether you are a die-hard or casual fan, you have probably noticed that their CDs are rather... irritating to say the least. You buy The Smiths, and you love it. Hatful of Hollow has almost the exact same songs! Alternate version sure, and some B-Sides and Singles, but if you aren't a hardcore fan, you couldn't care less. The World Won't Listen, some of the same songs as Hatful, but again you can forgive them because there are some new B-sides, singles etc. Louder than Bombs.. this Is getting ridiculous! Basically the exact same as World and these were only the CDs released while the Smiths were together, nevermind the greatest hits, best of, very best of, singles etc. that have come out post-humously. Not to mention Morrissey's solo career, but that's a whole other rant!

There was a point to this.. oh yes, the song. This song is about an musician who has died, and the record label is trying to cash in on it. The lyrics are hilarious if you have experienced what I ranted about above:

At the record company meeting
On their hands - a dead star
And oh, the plans that they weave
And oh, the sickening greed


Reissue! Repackage! Repackage!
Reevaluate the songs
Double-pack with a photograph
Extra Track (and a tacky badge)



Best of! Most of!
Satiate the need
Slip them into different sleeves
Buy both and be deceived


... and us Smiths fans know it well. Hilarious, but at least we can make light of the label's insistence on getting every last dollar out of us. I normally don't include this many lyrics, but I think it is crucial for those who haven't heard the album to see where I'm coming from.
4.5/5

Death at One's Elbow

This song is.. dreadful. I feel terrible saying that, because I truly do love the Smiths. And I wish they could do no wrong, but they have, with this song. It has no redeeming qualities: the music is fast, but boring, and repetitive beyond belief. The lyrics are incredibly uninspired (Oh Glenn/don't come to the house tonight) repeated a million times, blah blah. Terrible stuff. And I hate saying that, I really do. This is the only bad thing the Smiths ever did though.

1/5



I Won't Share You
A perfect ending to a near-perfect career. After the dreadful "Death at One's Elbow" they pick it up.. with a ballad, but no worries. This is said to be about Marr, who knows. But the music is simple, yet beautiful. The lyrics are witty (has the Perrier gone/straight to my head); sad, insistent, and desperate all at the same time (I won't share you). No complaints here, a great way to end off the album. I think this song is overrated, probably because of its finality, and the fact that it might be about Marr. But it is a great song nonetheless.
4.5/5



The Smiths hit the nail right on the head with several of the songs (Stop Me, Girlfriend), came awfully close with others (Rush, Paint), and missed the mark by miles with Death at One's Elbow. There is no doubt that they didn't live up to the Queen is Dead, but who could? Strangeways showed serious evidence of being a transition record, that the Smiths were moving on to even better music - much like Meat is Murder was a transition between their debut and Queen. But unfortunately the band didn't last. As I mentioned before, Rank was released a year later, Morrissey went on to a semi-successful solo career, Marr plodded around here and there (he has a new band now, Johnny Marr and the Healers) and Rourke and Joyce played together as back-up for various acts.


I would definitely recommend Strangeways if you already own Queen or the Smiths. My recommended order is Queen, Smiths, Strangeways - and if you like all that, Meat is Murder. But this is a necessity for Smiths fans; no Smiths fan's record collection should be without it.

For fans of the genre, go with the other albums first and if you like what you hear, check out Strangeways. For fans outside, this will take a while. See my order recommended above, wait a while for Strangeways.


Smith fans 5/5
Fans of genre 3.8/5
outside genre 2.5/5


For the record, if anyone cares: the first words spoken on a Smiths record: "It's time the tale were told" (from Reel around the Fountain). And the last: "this is my time".



EDIT: I increased some of the scores, because my intention is certainly not to detract people from the album. I think every song (with the except of Death at One's Elbow) is a great song, and many of them could be considered classics. So.. I increased the scores where I felt I was a little stingy.



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user ratings (582)
Chart.
4
excellent
other reviews of this album
Major Tom CONTRIBUTOR (4)
A rush and a push and retirement is ours...

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The Smith's followed up a classic with a decidedly uneven, but ocasionally brilliant swansong....


Comments:Add a Comment 
Libertine`88
December 13th 2004



3 Comments


erm....not bad at all :thumb:

theredwonder
December 13th 2004



9 Comments


i read every word mozza :smoke:

/**** she can't rep me again :upset:

Iai2
December 13th 2004



5 Comments


I read it all, and in contrast to your Meat is Murder review, I actually think you under-rated some of the tracks on here. I think this rivals The Queen Is Dead for the most part. It's a fantastic album.

Iai2
December 13th 2004



5 Comments


1. A Rush and a Push and the Land is Ours 5/5
2. I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish 4.5/5
3. Death of a Disco Dancer 4/5
4. Girlfriend in a Coma 5/5
5. Stop Me if You Think You’ve Heard This One Before 5/5
6. Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me 3.5/5
7. Unhappy Birthday 4/5
8. Paint a Vulgar Picture 5/5
9. Death at One’s Elbow 2/5
10. I Won’t Share You 4/5

That's mine. You didn't have to edit just on my accord.

Welcometothezoo
December 13th 2004



36 Comments


i lovve 'Is started something....' and 'Girlfriend in a coma' - The Smiths are forever heroes.

llama123
December 13th 2004



2 Comments


Excellent review of a wonderful album

Nightvision
December 14th 2004



11 Comments


You've convinced me, Amanda - I will go and buy "the queen is dead" with christmas store vouchers that I'll inevitably get from an elderly relative...

(by the way, I've already heard the album several times, I just don't own it yet...)

Tomahawk
December 14th 2004



124 Comments


Awesome review.

This album is fantastic. I love Paint a Vulgar Picture, really great lyrics in that song, it's brilliant.

ModestBass
December 14th 2004



4 Comments


This is a great album, I bought it on vinyl for 50 cents, yes yes i rule

morrissey
Moderator
December 14th 2004



1688 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

^--- you are one lucky bugger

youcancallmegod
April 1st 2005



14 Comments


EXCELLENT review of a really good album.....stop me is one of the greatest songs ever

pulseczar
September 18th 2005



2385 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this is the only Smiths album i still listen to

Simon Kent
April 12th 2006



58 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

um I really cant understand whats so good about the queen is dead. I liked Louder than Bombs and this album alot more. This probably my favorite album and I agree with the 5/5 for Smith fans.

analrightstart
April 13th 2006



96 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

brilliant record.
only one or two skipable tracks.
"unhappy birthday" "death of a disco dancer" and "i wont share you" are standouts for me.

The Jungler
July 29th 2006



4827 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I actually like this record alot more that The Smiths, there are some very amazinfg songs on this (no matter how bad Death at Ones Elbow is).

livinginafantasy
December 29th 2006



35 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

my favourite smiths record by leaps and bounds.

sadisticmonkey
December 30th 2006



107 Comments


I'm liking Johnny Marr since he joined Modest Mouse...but other than that, I think Morissey is a bit of a whacko...

can't really get into the smiths like others can

Motor breath
January 19th 2007



21 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I think this cd is equally as good as meat is murder


Zebra
Moderator
January 19th 2007



2647 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

This never really grabbed me. I'm sure if I gave it more time and had a little more patience with it then I'd eventually come around but I'm not that big of a Smiths fan in the first place. The Queen is Dead is more accessible and Meat Is Murder was my first taste of the Smiths so Strangeways... seems kind of bland to me.

Iai
Emeritus
September 28th 2007



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is so much better than Meat though.



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