The Smiths
Strangeways, Here We Come


4.0
excellent

Review

by STOP SHOUTING! USER (27 Reviews)
December 31st, 2009 | 98 replies | 18,740 views


Release Date: 1987 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Morrissey's love letter to Johnny Marr.

2 of 2 thought this review was well written

You know how it is. There you are with the girl of your dreams and if you were any happier, you would die. Which is exactly what it feels like when she turns round and announces that it isn't working. The most precious girl in the world and she's slipping through your hands. And there's nothing you can do about it.

That's what this album feels like. And the girl in question is the band's lead guitarist and co-songwriter, Johnny Marr.

Let's rewind five years previous to 1982. There we see Morrissey still living with his mother in a Manchester suburb, penning unread fanzines about James Dean and The New York Dolls, going nowhere and going there fast. Until the day Marr knocks on his door with guitar and a clutch of lyric free songs in hand.

The truth is without Marr, The Smiths would have been a wacky sideshow, the irrelevant ramblings of Morrissey the misfit. Marr not only provided the music, but a kind of Keith Richards cool: all earrings and eyeliner, cigarettes and Jack Daniels, that gave social credence to the most unlikely of bands that somehow nearly took the world by storm.

But during the recording of this, their fourth and last studio album, as they stood on the verge of finally cracking America, building on the massive critical and commercial success of "The Queen Is Dead", suddenly everything fell apart. Marr walked out on the band even before the recording had been finalised (leaving Morrissey and Stephen Street the producer to finish off some of the songs) and this album, instead of being a final triumphant success, was actually released posthumously to a muted reaction.

Of course, in hindsight, the split is obvious. What is particularly noticeable is that nearly every song on this album is about saying goodbye, about the end of a love affair or about the death of that lover. The first side is full of violent imagery, the sublimation of Morrissey's impotent rage, the externalisation of his emotional wreckage: songs about bloody revolution (A Rush and A Push); about murder at a disco (Death of A Disco Dancer); about a loved one being at death's door (Girlfriend In A Coma); about "shy, bald buddhists reflecting on mass murder" (Stop Me); about testicles literally being squeezed ("he grabbed me by the gilded beans, aarrgh!" - I Started Something).

Perhaps fuelled by their imminent demise, the songs here are among the best that The Smiths have ever produced. Take Girlfriend In A Coma. Over a deceptively catchy melody, Morrissey vacillates ironically between love and hate ("you know, I could have murdered her, but, you know, I would hate anything to happen to her") in a way that has never been done in the whole canon of pop music, leaving songwriters everywhere scratching their heads at such brilliant simplicity.

The second side sees Morrissey getting much more personal, an internalisation rather than externalisation of his rage. Having previously announced himself as celibate and asexual, the heartbreaking ballad (with an admittedly overfussy intro) Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me sees Morrissey close to coming out of the closet. But who broke his dream, who is the somebody who could have loved him?

Certainly, the other songs on this side of the album seem to have Marr as their target. The immature lyrics of Unhappy Birthday can only be excused by being pointedly personal: "I've come to wish you an unhappy birthday because you're evil and you lie/and if you should die/I may be slightly sad but I won't cry". The rather laboured Paint A Vulgar Picture lambasts not just Marr, but the whole music industry. But it is the final song, the beautiful ballad I Won't Share You, where Morrissey finally stops swinging punches and accepts it's all over. With his guitarist now departed, Morrissey croons with the defiance of a defeated lover to an empty recording studio: "I won't share you, with the drive and ambition, the zeal I feel, this is MY time."

Of course, it wasn't really Morrissey's time, it was the beginning of the end of his time. Marr went on to cavort with all sorts of glamourous luminaries of the music industry including Talking Heads, Bryan Ferry, The Pretenders, The The, New Order, The Pet Shop Boys, Billy Bragg, Oasis, Pearl Jam, Modest Mouse, Girls Aloud, John Frusciante, The Cribs, et al. Morrissey went on to a solo career that constantly raged against the dying light on ever smaller record labels.

Despite popular opinion, both Morrissey and Marr claim that this is The Smiths' best album, with at least six classic songs (but somewhat let down by an inferior second side and some overproduction issues), as the former sardonically confirms:

"We say it quite often; at the same time; in our sleep ... but in different beds."



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user ratings (608)
Chart.
4
excellent
other reviews of this album
Major Tom CONTRIBUTOR (4)
A rush and a push and retirement is ours...

JAD (3)
The Smith's followed up a classic with a decidedly uneven, but ocasionally brilliant swansong....

Amanda Murray STAFF (4)
...


Comments:Add a Comment 
hydeyomoney
December 31st 2009



934 Comments


from your username i just shouted this review in my head. It's a good one to shout i guess, so good job.

Fuff24
December 31st 2009



1118 Comments


great review; you made me want to check this out

Anthracks
December 31st 2009



3733 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i touched you at the sound check

Digging: Devangelic - Resurrection Denied

Enotron
December 31st 2009



7695 Comments


This review was secretly written by andy rourke to reveal Morrissey and Marr's secret relationship!

STOP SHOUTING!
January 1st 2010



631 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks for the comments guys.

"i touched you at the sound check"
i begged take me with you...but me and my true love will never meet again.

"This review was secretly written by andy rourke to reveal Morrissey and Marr's secret relationship!"
you think it's a conspiracy theory?

illmitch
January 1st 2010



5429 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

EXCELLENT review. i love this album and everything morrissey has ever touched

STOP SHOUTING!
January 2nd 2010



631 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah a lot of the stuff he did with the smiths is really good.

RobotFrank
January 10th 2010



344 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Slipped this one by me while I was away. You write fantastic introduction paragraphs, I always enjoy them. This review was top quality - it left me with a tear in my eye.

"A Rush and a Push.." and "Stop Me.." are golden gems.

Tikicobra
December 27th 2012



573 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This is honestly my favorite The Smiths album. Like, by a long shot.

FakePlasticWorld
March 4th 2013



52 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"Death of a Disco Dancer" pratically painted the blueprint for OK Computer

BigPleb
May 2nd 2013



36001 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Girlfriend in a coma I know, I knowwwwwww its serioussss.

Digging: Arc Iris - Arc Iris

ButteryBiscuitBass
May 2nd 2013



9898 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Typical me
I started something
And now I'm not too sure.

BigPleb
May 2nd 2013



36001 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

These 5's, wow.

tommygun
May 2nd 2013



24553 Comments


still haven't heard this god damn

Digging: Broods - Evergreen

BigPleb
May 2nd 2013



36001 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

TOMMY! Get onto it.

I'm gonna bump actually, its better than a 3.5.

tommygun
May 2nd 2013



24553 Comments


i think i have it actually gonna jam tonight

zakalwe
October 4th 2013



7480 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Do you really think she'll pull through?


Digging: J Mascis - Tied to a Star

someguest
October 20th 2013



20393 Comments


"Unhappy Birthday"

DetectiveStabler
November 30th 2013



31 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

And if you think peace is a common goal..

Rowan5215
November 30th 2013



25560 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Love, peace and harmony?
Love, peace and harmony?
Oh, very nice, very nice, very nice, very nice
But maybe in the next world

Digging: Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago



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