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The Smiths: Ranked

Ranking the LPs and the two major compilations.
6The Smiths
The Smiths


Though I find this to be the weakest LP, it has some of the group's strongest tracks, and I can see why it is a fan favourite. The production simply fails to capture the energy of the later records and the Hatful of Hollow compilation, it sounds sterile to my ears, and I only ever visit this album because I prefer its versions of "This Charming Man," "Still Ill," and "You've Got Everything Now." Otherwise, I stick with the compilation.
5The Smiths
Strangeways, Here We Come


The Smiths began with a set of very strict parameters which arose from their upbringing in the heat of the post-punk movement, and never strayed too far from a basic setup with their early work. While "The Queen is Dead" inched toward a more lush production with the inclusion of keyboards on "There is a Light That Never Goes Out," this album feels as if all of those restrictions have been lifted, allowing for some of the band's most intricate compositions to date. "Strangeways" embodies the creative tension between Morrissey's creative conservatism and Marr's desire for evolution, and it is a brilliant closing chapter to the band's brief and revolutionary run.
4The Smiths
Louder Than Bombs


Another exceptionally solid compilation, coincidentally also being the band's most successful American release at the time, being released on the verge of The Smiths' breakup. Many of the group's best A/B Sides are here like "Panic," "Ask," and "Shoplifters of the World Unite," and several tracks from the earliest days make a reappearance too. Hatfull is a bit stronger in my view given the sheer strength of the early tracks, but you couldn't go wrong with either compilation.
3The Smiths
Meat Is Murder


Beyond the album title's obvious connotations, this is doubtlessly the band's most political record. Released in the aftermath of the second Thatcher government, the Miners' Strikes, and Live Aid, Morrissey is relentless in his social critique, also penning some of his most hilarious lyrics too ("I'd like to drop my trousers to the Queen, every sensible child will know what this means"). And coming between the band's most iconic albums, I have always felt that this record has been relatively neglected, and especially among the American fanbase. Many of their strongest tracks are here, with "I Want the One I Can't Have" and "Nowhere Fast" being clear highlights for me. That tremolo in "How Soon is Now"......come on, that's gotta be a forerunner to shoegaze, right?
2The Smiths
The Queen Is Dead


This record has been universally praised as a classic since its release, and I believe that it rightfully deserves it. If Johnny Marr's most iconic guitar work was captured on the first two LPs, then Morrissey's greatest work within the band is here (though "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others" is my favourite Marr track in the discography). There isn't a weak moment here, every track is anthemic and iconic, and I believe that anyone, even those who are not a fan of the band and its personalities at large, could find something to admire from this album.
1The Smiths
Hatful of Hollow


I put this compilation on top because of how fundamentally strong the lineup of songs is, with their early singles and strongest B-Sides being featured. There are also several Peel Session versions of tracks from the debut LP featured like "This Charming Man" and "Still Ill", which are quite distinct from their album versions. The Smiths would go on toward capturing more brilliant and refined compositions on their following LPs, but this record manages to capture the magic of what made the group so unique and special to begin with, and is the perfect embodiment of Morrissey and Johnny Marr's desperation and hunger to achieve the sort of fame, notoriety and influence beyond Manchester which they feverishly longed for. This album is one of the strongest compilations in the realm of popular music as a whole, and if I had to choose one desert island disc, this one would be what I would select.
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