The Smiths
The Smiths


5.0
classic

Review

by Major Tom CONTRIBUTOR (139 Reviews)
March 5th, 2012 | 273 replies | 16,798 views


Release Date: 1984 | Tracklist

Review Summary: What difference it did make…

The Smiths changed modern music. Into the glamour obsessed, synth-clogged face of mid-80s English pop shot a Manchester band purposefully named with as mundane a title as possible, as if to contrast the yuppie Thatcherite surroundings before the jangly 60's inspired chords of Johnny Marr or the harsh romanticism of Morrissey’s lyrics, where yet to be heard.

They came, a gang of four, like a beam of enlightening warmth into the sparkly, detached coldness of the decade. Led by one of the most literate, controversial and utterly iconic frontmen ever to emerge, The Smiths shook up and stood out from their peers. Morrissey – a fey, eccentric loner, who seemed destined to drift towards a more literary career, frequently writing into NME’s letter section and operating the UK arm of his much appreciated New York Dolls fan club – wanted nothing to do with the conventions of life, and this naturally spread into his cutting lyrical work come the day Johnny Marr fatefully knocked upon his door.

Morrissey “never had a job” because he “never wanted one”. He didn’t want to settle down and become one half of the married couple whose photograph is perched atop the family television, nor did he want to be labelled as part of conventional sexuality, hinting at homosexuality in scathing, froth-mouthed songs like ‘Hand In Glove’ (“if the people stare, then the people stare”), and once calling himself “the prophet of the fourth sex” in interview. As the man himself ponders in the weary ‘Still Ill’, “does the mind rule the body or the body rule the mind?”.

Its lyrics like the ones Morrissey penned that were part of what made The Smiths so refreshing and so real. Morrissey’s words cut through the stylish bull*** of the 80's, turning the experience of many dissatisfied young men and women into something as anthemic and poetic as it was relatable and intimate. As stunning as his lines were, The Smiths wouldn’t be as utterly revered as they are if it weren’t for the vital musical counterpart led by Johnny Marr – truly one of England’s most remarkable guitarists.

On ‘This Charming Man’ Marr’s guitar flashes in in front of a superb rhythm section, as bright and uplifting as the arrival of morning sunshine after days of rainy misery, transforming a band who signed to an independent label and whose un-kitsch appearance contrasted with pop-norms - practically forging the notion of indie in the process – into a serious pop commodity. The storming, snarled jangle chords of follow-up single ‘What Difference Does It Make?’ fared even better; a true Smith classic with Morrissey wailing the song title, only to later conclude “it makes none”. This wasn’t normal, run-of-the-mill pop, it was something far more intriguing and off-kilter, it was indie-pop at its most stirring and enduring.

The Smiths were something fresh and different; informed by the past but not bound by it; of the times but truly lasting; pop but alternative. Arguments may be held that The Smiths released better records – albums with a cleaner production, or a matured band, but for this writer’s money, and putting aside their vital compilation efforts, The Smiths packs the most punch. It’s the Mancunian foursomes’ rawest, purest edition – where they had no expectations placed upon them; before already big egos became inflated and inflated until breaking point; crafted before they became stars and Morrissey perhaps had a chance to lose touch with the angry bitterness of the plighted young man, or Marr had the opportunity to overindulge and drift away from the sharp, simple musical pleasures to be witnessed here. The Smiths is simply one of the most vital and stunning debuts raised on English soil, and remains as such to this day.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
March 5th 2012



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Wanted to review this for a while. When not listening to new stuff i've been jamming a lot of Smiths so this felt needed.

Hep Kat
March 5th 2012



14983 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

review reveals your extreme ignorance of the band

Digging: Nipsey Hussle - Crenshaw

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
March 5th 2012



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks, Smiths biographer Hep Kat.

Gyromania
March 5th 2012



15164 Comments


Okay, Tom, I have a few edits and nitpicks for you:

The Smiths changed modern music. Into the glamour obsessed, synth-clogged face of mid-80s English pop rose a Manchester band


--At first glance, it seems like this should be one sentence. To help with flow, I'd suggest changing 'Into' to 'From'. While we're discussing the second sentence, it should be noted that it's kind of, well, awkward, especially the ending: "where yet to be even heard." I would suggest removing that line altogether because a) it doesn't work given the text that comes before it, b) I think you meant 'were', and if you want to keep it in I'd suggest removing 'even'. One other thing: '60s' - given the context of its use, the 's' should be separated with an apostrophe because it's denoting ownership.

Led by one of the most literate, controversial and utterly iconic frontmen ever to emerge


--Very minuscule criticism (just something to maybe consider for future reference). I'm a fan of the Oxford comma, because: http://26.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lr7jv93A7J1qd6080o1_500.jpg

and once calling himself “the prophet of the fourth sex” in interview


*an

Its lyrics like the ones Morrissey penned that were part of what made The Smiths so refreshing and so real. Morrissey’s words cut through the stylish bull*** of the 80s, turning the experience of many dissatisfied young men and women into something as anthemic and poetic as it was relatable and intimate


-- *It's *'80s *experiences. Also, to avoid censoring, add an [ i ] [ / i ] tag to one of the letters in shit.

And in closing, you should remove one of the 'in's in the fifth paragraph's opening sentence. This is a great review though, and I typically love reading your stuff, you just need to make some edits. Also, I haven't heard this album yet (I know... I know), but The Queen Is Dead is an easy 5/5 for me, so I should really get around to listening to this.



bakkermaarten007
March 5th 2012



3289 Comments


Great review. Morrissey is still a douchebag and The Smiths aren't my thing, There's A Light That Never Goes Out is the only track that moves me.

Gyromania
March 5th 2012



15164 Comments


Lol, Morrissey is one of the most brilliant songwriters of all time, he's so satirical and scathing at times.

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
March 5th 2012



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Morrissey is a genius. I know that term gets thrown around a lot but i find him fascinating.

Thanks for the pos and thanks for the feedback Gyro, a few of the things you pointed out i meant to correct but just missed in proof reading. I've edited it slightly, cheers.

Titan50
March 5th 2012



4588 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

holy crap this is a great review

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
March 5th 2012



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thank you very much, Titan!

But on sader terms, that's the second ghost-neg i've gotten in a row... think i've got a stalker.

bakkermaarten007
March 5th 2012



3289 Comments


Did I say he's not brilliant? I only said he's a douchebag... Why? Because he forces his ideas onto other people and he always makes exuberant demands when he's asked to perform somewhere.

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
March 5th 2012



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

bakkermaarten007 - Nope, but you shared your views on the man and i just shared mine. I don't agree with some of the things he believes in - vegetarianism, for example - but a lot of what he sings about or discusses in interview i can relate to, and sadly, that's a rare thing in pop music.


bakkermaarten007
March 5th 2012



3289 Comments


I understand. It's not that he's not right or something (though I'm not a vegetarian either), but his methods seem a little agressive.

Gyromania
March 5th 2012



15164 Comments


You're a little aggressive yourself, bakk.

bakkermaarten007
March 5th 2012



3289 Comments


Do I come across that way? Wasn't intentional.


Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
March 5th 2012



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Ask me why and i'll spit in your eye...

bakkermaarten007
March 5th 2012



3289 Comments


Not following, there's some linguistic data of the english language that I don't withhold maybe.

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
March 5th 2012



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

There probably is, yes. Back to the Morrissey argument, what do you find aggressive about him, particularly?

slashface000
March 5th 2012



38 Comments


Morrissey holds some wacko racist views and hasn't done anything worth listening to in years, good album though

bakkermaarten007
March 5th 2012



3289 Comments


Not bothering with how other people might feel about vegetarianism,, sometimes thinking he's a politician when he's an artist.

bakkermaarten007
March 5th 2012



3289 Comments


"Morrissey holds some wacko racist views..."
And this



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