The Smiths
The Queen Is Dead


4.0
excellent

Review

by STOP SHOUTING! USER (27 Reviews)
October 6th, 2009 | 23 replies | 6,193 views


Release Date: 1986 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "Fame, fame, fatal fame, it can play hideous tricks on the brain."

2 of 4 thought this review was well written

Some bands capture the zeitgeist. With their self-titled debut album, The Smiths took their place in a long line of legendary UK bands that somehow managed to seize the moment of youth culture (The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Sex Pistols, The Specials, The Jam, The Stone Roses, Oasis, The Libertines, The Arctic Monkeys). Marr's jangling guitar declared war against the contemporary synthesizer sound of New Romantic bands such as Duran Duran and hailed a triumphant throwback to a retro 60s sound. At the same time Morrissey's strident and poetical declarations struck a dagger to the heart of Thatcherite Britain ("I decree today that life is simply taking and not giving: England is mine, it owes me a living" Still Ill).

However, their second studio album "Meat is Murder" met with mixed reactions. Marr's now mostly 50s based rockabilly tunes seemed dated and Morrissey's monochromed tales of misery and issue bashing (vegetarianism, the education system, corporal punishment) had them pigeonholed as an awkward indie band not for general public consumption.

It is apparent therefore that their third album "The Queen Is Dead" has a wider agenda: to hit the mainstream. Marr introduces pop tunes into his life with added strings, whilst Morrissey attempts to shed his "miserable" image with the accent on wit and humour in homage to one of his literary heroes Oscar Wilde.

The opener starts off promisingly enough, introduced by an old music hall excerpt of Take Me Back To Dear Old Blightly followed by a screeching guitar and a cacophony of drums. Over the musical bombast Morrissey equivocates over major issues such as the state of England, royalty and masculinity. But despite all the huffing and puffing, lyrics like "I say (Prince) Charles, don't you ever crave to appear on the front of the Daily Mail dressed in your mother's bridal veil?" don’t really find their target. The song hardly rivals something to rock the establishment like God Save The Queen by The Sex Pistols. Similar lyrics are found in Vicar in a Tutu with Morrissey sneering "Vicar in a tutu! He's not strange, he just wants to live his life this way". The camp humour fails to make any cogent commentary on the church, no doubt that wasn't the aim. But the ponderous narrative in fact spoils a great rockabilly tune by Marr. Perhaps it's a matter of taste, but this "Carry On" humour borders on infantile.

Certainly on Cemetry Gates, Morrissey seems to regress to the mental age of a thirteen year old with his desperate name-dropping ("Keats and Yeats are on your side, but you lose, cos Wilde is on mine") and compounds matters by the blandness of his musings on death (“it seems so unfair, I want to cry”), which is just … awful. If you are going to try to be intellectual, perhaps make a start by learning how to spell “cemetery”. Mind you, this is all that Marr’s stick thin, stop start froth of a tune deserves. Another song where Morrissey and Marr compete in mediocrity is the nadir of the album Never Had No One Ever, with Marr’s sludgy backdrop as tedious as Morrissey’s ode to the loss of his virginity.

I’m supposed to be reviewing a classic here. This album is regularly cited in those all time best lists. But as well as the two poor songs above, there are numerous average songs. The bland single The Boy With The Thorn In His Side feels a bit undercooked with its commercial pop sound, whilst the problem with a crass line like “behind the hatred there lies a blundering desire for love” is that it would no doubt be seconded by deluded mothers and battered wives everywhere. Although the teasing closer Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others could be kindly termed as understated, Morrissey probably should have tried to think of some lyrics, since Marr had gone to the effort of composing the tune. Usually Marr and Morrissey work in unison: if one fails, so does the other. At least, the reggae inflected romp, with its nodding dog of a bass drum, that is Frankly Mr Shankly fits with the flippancy of its lyrics. “I would rather be famous, than righteous or holy” Morrissey asserts, placing him nicely beside X factor contestants and vacuous pop celebrities everywhere.

Not to say there isn’t brilliance here. I Know It’s Over is the first incontrovertible stamp of genius, with Morrissey putting in a vocal performance full of pathos and an amazingly memorable line “mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head”. Nor does There Is A Light That Never Goes Out disappoint, as Marr gets out the violins for his haunting melody to serenade Morrissey, who is at his achingly romantic best (“to die by your side: what a heavenly way to die!”). Bigmouth Strikes Again is another stand-out, with Morrissey’s sardonic opening statement “sweetness, I was only joking when I said I would like to smash every tooth in your head” meshing beautifully with Marr’s driving acoustic guitar accompaniment. Morrissey suddenly remembers he is a once-in-a-lifetime lyricist, able to evoke a plethora of conflicting images with a throwaway line like “now I know how Joan of Arc felt, as the flames rose to her roman nose, and her walkman started to melt”.

Is this a classic? No way. As with all Morrissey’s work, genius and mediocrity stand side by side; perhaps as a result of the flaws in his personality. Because The Smiths are capable of scaling such heights, critics understandably want to acknowledge this by pointing to one particular album. But The Smiths and Morrissey in particular are a bit like the girl with the curl in the nursery rhyme: when they are good, they are very very good, when they are bad, they are horrid.



Recent reviews by this author
Anna Calvi One BreathThe National High Violet
Wild Beasts SmotherDavid Bowie Scary Monsters
Fenech-Soler Fenech-SolerJames Blake James Blake
user ratings (1489)
Chart.
4.5
superb
other reviews of this album
Major Tom CONTRIBUTOR (5)
“Oh, has the world changed, or have I changed?”...

Old Uncle Al (4)
...

Med57 EMERITUS (5)
...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Kiran
Emeritus
October 6th 2009



5992 Comments


Hatful of Hollow is far and away the best Smiths album

BrandNewBoognish
October 6th 2009



1021 Comments


One of the most overrated albums/bands of all time

RobotFrank
October 6th 2009



344 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Enjoyable read, even if I don't completely agree with your score... but nobody else has presented a differing opinion like this, so I can respect that. "Cemetry Gates" is the weak spot on here. Reading this, I was starting to anticipate harsh words for "I Know It's Over," but it appears we feel the same about that one. Great writing here.
DaveyBoy once told me to condense paragraphs, and I think that might apply. Twelve is a lot. Otherwise, very nice review of one of my favorite albums. +1pos

Sepstrup
October 6th 2009



1563 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I disagree entirely. I find it humorous throughout (the name-dropping on Cemetry Gates, for instance, or "She said'I know you and you cannot sing', I said, 'that's nothing you should hear me play piano'"). Very good review, though. You argue your points (even if they're wrong :P) well.

Easy 5/5 for me.

illmitch
October 6th 2009



5429 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Can't say I agree with your rating, but this review is pretty solid. I've always thought the flippancy of Morrissey's lyrics is one of his major strengths.

Shadius
October 6th 2009



203 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

The way you seem to dislike this album doesn't follow with the rating. If you thought the aforementioned lines were bad, why would you think There is a Light That Never goes out has good lyrics?

The lack of appreciation of sarcasm and irony lets this review down.

STOP SHOUTING!
October 6th 2009



628 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

^ Aww you took away my 100% approval!

I have nothing against sarcasm and irony, but when he starts to witter away in a self-absorbed way about his belly fluff, I get overwhelmed by the urge to give him a good kicking, is all.

BrandNewBoognish
October 6th 2009



1021 Comments


The lack of Morrissey ass kissing led to the loss of your 100% approval

Shadius
October 6th 2009



203 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Sorry, the review just reads like a chance to bash Morrissey. If you were going to do that, at least give the album rating a 2 or something, you know?

I really fail to see how someone can bash The Boy With a Thorn in his Side or Cemetry Gates but praise There is a light that never goes out for it's lyrical prowess. That's not just that I disagree with you, it's that you don't demonstrate how those songs differ. If you take your negative approach, singing about being hit by a double decker bus can equally be seen as drivel. Why not call Morrissey a whiney emo kid for lines like "See the sea, wants to take me, the knife, wants to slit me"? But you praise that song too.

The review is reasonably well written, I just think your opinions arn't very well formed, and if you're going to write a review bashing a classic album, you should at least have that.

Anthracks
October 6th 2009



3639 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

unacceptable rating

Digging: Tobacco - Ultima II Massage

illmitch
October 7th 2009



5429 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

god i love morrissey

STOP SHOUTING!
October 7th 2009



628 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sorry, the review just reads like a chance to bash Morrissey

"poetical", "genius", "full of pathos", "amazingly memorable," "meshing beautifully", "achingly romantic", "once-in-a-lifetime lyricist" ...

you don't demonstrate how those songs differ

"The Boy With The Thorn In His Side" is a bit poppy for my taste and "Cemetry Gates" is pretentious whimsy, imo. Totally different to "There Is A Light" and "I Know It's Over", which are all about alienation and infatuation.



STOP SHOUTING!
October 13th 2009



628 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Condensed the paragraphs on this, don't know if it improves it.

Tokyochuchu
November 10th 2009



62 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Hmmm. I've always thought that the 'classic' status was a bit much for this album too. It's not even The Smiths' strongest LP in my opinion (I'll plump for 'Meat Is Murder' on that scale). But I feel you were a little harsh on it. 'The Boy With The Thorn On His Side' is an awesome pop tune. Really don't like 'Never Had No One Ever' or 'Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others' though.

DhA
January 11th 2010



421 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

a bit overly harsh i thought but can't knock the quality of the review

STOP SHOUTING!
January 12th 2010



628 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

you know what, after much contemplation and meditation, i'm wondering if i was a bit harsh on this...

Sepstrup
January 13th 2010



1563 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

It's not too late...

STOP SHOUTING!
January 13th 2010



628 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

sup sep.

oh it's far too late now. if only i could have my time again.

El_Goodo
September 15th 2010



1008 Comments


You spend the whole review bashing the album until the last paragraph and yet you give it a 4? Just because you don't get the lyrics doesn't mean their awful, 90% of lyrics can't stand up on their own without their performance, the lyrics you cite as awful sound just fine when there being sung.

STOP SHOUTING!
September 15th 2010



628 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i originally had it at 3.5, but upped it to 4 some time after the review.

i was coming from a half empty as opposed to half full angle, pointing out what i didn't like about it bearing in mind it's supposed to be a classic. what do you rate it as?



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2013 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy