The Smiths
Strangeways, Here We Come


4.0
excellent

Review

by Major Tom CONTRIBUTOR (139 Reviews)
July 25th, 2013 | 27 replies | 993 views


Release Date: 1987 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A rush and a push and retirement is ours

The most elaborate and varied Smiths record arrived with their 1987 curtain closer, “Strangeways, Here We Come”. Despite the fact that Strangeways is a Manchester prison the album has little else to do with incarceration, as Morrissey tackles a varied yet familiar array of topics on the LP, from absurdist humour, to personal failings, to dissatisfaction with Record companies. The music can be just as varied too, with quirky piano, jangly riffs and orchestral tinkerings. Yet despite it’s numerous strengths, “Strangeways” doesn’t impress quite as much as The Queen Is Dead or perhaps even their eponymous debut.

It is still a great record fortunately, and it was far from a disappointing bow out, yet the fact remains that at times certain parts of the album feel a little too fussed over or forced – as if the group knew that the Morrissey/Marr partnership was about to implode any moment and therefore needed to make a final statement that was richer and denser than ever before. However, such feelings are only fleeting and overtly critical, as there are a good number of Smiths classic held on this disc.

‘I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish’ is a catchy, bittersweet piece of self-mockery, and chugs along in a comfortable and adept manner. Morrissey’s sigh of “Hair brushed and parted / Typical me, typical me, typical me / I started something and now I’m not too sure” at the tail end of the chorus is classic tongue in cheek Mozza wit. ‘Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before’ is even stronger, with glimmering Marr guitars and even more effective Morrissey wit, with his voice sounding smoother and more comfortable than ever before. The bridge between the verse and chorus is one of the most infectious and memorable guitar hooks Marr ever wrote and lines like “I crashed down on the crossbar, and the pain was enough to make a shy, bald Buddhist reflect and plan a mass murder” also ensure this track is a prime cut. The pop charms continue with the darkly humorous ‘Girlfriend In A Coma’, whose music and vocals are so soft and delicate juxtaposing the dark (yet essentially tongue in cheek) lyrics.

At the opposite end of the spectrum we are treated with a rich slice of Smiths sorrow with ‘Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me’. It’s classic Morrissey material yet this is one area of the album that comes across as slightly fussed over and forced as mentioned near the start of the review. Its lengthy intro featuring background screams and a sparse pounding piano lasts a little longer than necessary and the rich, sparkly arrangement that follows with its faux orchestra may be a little too rich for some tastes. It’s still a good song but one can’t help but feel Morrissey and the band have tackled similar subjects more effectively elsewhere in their discography. ‘Death of a Disco Dancer’ also meanders a tad, once again, far from a poor song, but still it comes across as less forceful, memorable and impactful than other tunes on the album. Nit-picking further, ‘Unhappy Birthday’ seems more suited as a simple, minorly-enjoyable b-side.

But when it comes down to it, “Strangeways” is a very enjoyable and solidly constructed Smiths album, and served as decent career closer, with its eclectic range of moods and styles – almost like a narrowed Smiths career sampler. Even if it sags ever so slightly in a few areas its biggest tracks are far too buoyant, exciting and memorable for any shortcomings in other areas to damage the album, or indeed the reputation, of one of England’s greatest bands.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 25th 2013



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I reviewed their debut, Hatful, Meat, and Queen is Dead a while ago, thought i'd tie up a loose end because the Smiths are fucking amazing so it's always nice to write about them.

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
July 25th 2013



49788 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

sweet

Digging: Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) - You Will Eventually Be Forgotten

PumpBoffBag
July 25th 2013



327 Comments


nice

someguest
July 25th 2013



20286 Comments


GF in a coma is their best song really, it's so biting and sarcastic.

Digging: Your Old Droog - Your Old Droog

tommygun
July 25th 2013



23569 Comments


major tom lives!

pos will read

Digging: Obliteration - Black Death Horizon

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 25th 2013



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Girlfriend in a coma is genius, really quite funny

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 25th 2013



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Cheers tommygun! I am indeed still alive and writing, just less so on the writing front.

tommygun
July 25th 2013



23569 Comments


yea good review as always

this one never clicked that hard but i need to give it more spins

best fuckin band

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 25th 2013



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks man.

Discrediting their compilations, i think this is my least favourite Smiths album after Meat is Murder. Still love a lot of it, but overall just not as WOAH

tommygun
July 25th 2013



23569 Comments


yeah that's the thing, it's obviously a good record but they have so much really perfect stuff that the bar is set almost impossibly high... s/t and queen are a class above the other two LPs (inb4 buttery gets all MEAT IS MURDER IS LIFE on my ass)

which compilations are you referring to? i seem to recall you writing a 5 review for hatful of hollow... (which I agree is absolutely essential listening)

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 25th 2013



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah exactly man, i agree.

I was referring to Hatful of Hollow and Louder Than Bombs, both of which i think are an essential part of the Smiths discography. Might review Louder Than Bombs still yet.

tommygun
July 25th 2013



23569 Comments


right on man!

DO YOU REALLY THINK SHE'LL PULL THROUGH?

DOOOHOOOOOoOOOOooooOo

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 25th 2013



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

No other pop song like it, it's brilliant. Who ever thought a song about a loved one on the verge of death could be such catchy fun?!

tommygun
July 25th 2013



23569 Comments


agreed morrissey is a fucking wizard

jammed viva hate for the first time today and it was actually better than expected (didn't miss marr as much as i thought i would though there wasn't quite the same 'magic')

suedehead is a cracking tune

have you heard any of his solo stuff?

mryrtmrnfoxxxy
July 25th 2013



11810 Comments


cracking

Digging: Tenement - Taking Everything b?/?w Daylight World Plus 2

tommygun
July 25th 2013



23569 Comments


yea it's a corker

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 25th 2013



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I've actually been getting into a bit of his solo stuff recently, held off for too long for some weird
reason. Might actually be because i thought i'd miss Marr and the rest of the group too much as you
feared also, and while i do to an extent i'm still really enjoying some of the solo stuff.

Suedehead is class, Everyday is Like Sunday is great too, plus Piccadilly Dalare and November Spawned
a Monster are also worthwhile from his early solo stuff i've checked out so far.

tommygun
July 25th 2013



23569 Comments


right on! marr's record from earlier this year is decent too, nothing special, 3.5 range but it has a few real nice songs and his playing is excellent throughout

worth a couple of spins if you haven't already

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 25th 2013



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I've only spun Marr's recent solo effort once, i thought it was decent but i need to give it a bit more attention because it's Johnny Fucking Marr. He's a hero!

tommygun
July 25th 2013



23569 Comments


yea man his vox are meh but not in a distracting way (mixed lowish)

besides when it comes to johnny it's all about that jingle jangle gee tar



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