Review Summary: "Will they ever, they ever, believe me?"
Every once in a blue moon, there is a band that comes along and completely changes the musical landscape and confines of a genre. That band, in this case, is the Manchester founded indie rock outfit The Smiths. To say that the The Queen Is Dead
is an influential record would be putting it extremely lightly. Countless bands have cited the album as being a pinnacle within indie rock and post punk, some even claiming it to be the best record within those genres to ever hit the music store shelves. The key to success for The Smiths is a mixture of things and, when blended together, would consistently deliver something nothing short of extraordinary.
Without a doubt, The Smiths' most noticeable and unique feature are the vocals of frontman and main lyricist of the band, Steven Morrissey. With his biting wit and off kilter vocal delivery, Morrissey more than highly contributed to the distinctive sound of the band's music. Although his lyrics would mainly centre around political issues and depressing personal experiences, Morrissey would always somehow turn these seemingly downbeat subjects into euphoric and powerful observations. Take the opening track, 'The Queen Is Dead', for example. The line "Life is very lonely"
is repeated umpteen times; which, upon first glance, paints quite a dull and desolate picture. However, due to Morrissey's delivery, lyrics such as these come across as extremely cathartic and feel so much more powerful as a result.
Instrumentally, the band is also noted for the eccentric and outlandishly original playing of lead guitarist, Johnny Marr. All across this record (and across the bands discography), Marr was constantly noted as delivering countless memorable riffs on a consistent basis. Perhaps the best and most popular example of this would be the guitarwork on the albums main single, 'Bigmouth Strikes Again'. The track is given license to venture down many musical avenues due to Marr's constantly shifting guitar patterns. This incredible guitar playing coupled with Morrissey's cutting lyrics definitely make 'Bigmouth' one of the albums many highlights.
When it comes to versatility, Queen
also excels. 'I Know It's Over' is a gut wrenching ballad about a failed relationship; which contrasts perfectly with the albums more 'brighter' moments, e.g 'Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others'. The latter focuses on Morrissey's tongue-in-cheek tale about, you guessed it, a rather large female. On paper, this frail bridge between comedy and anguish shouldn't work. Yet, somehow, The Smiths manage to come through with flying colours on every attempt. Perhaps the album's highlight, musically and lyrically, is should-be album closer 'There is a Light That Never Goes Out'. The track once again paints a rather bleak picture, this time of a lonely soul lost within the confines of a failed love interest. As the track builds towards its sublime chorus, Morrissey peacefully croons "And if a double decker bus crashes into us, to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die"
. One can't help think that without Morrissey's unique vocals and self-awareness, these lyrics would have sounded utterly ridiculous coming from any other vocalist. This idea of uniqueness is relevant to the whole album, with every single track being undoubtedly memorable and sonically idiosyncratic. This, without a doubt, helps Queen
paint a seamless picture of non-inimitable characteristic songwriting throughout.
When all is said and done, The Queen Is Dead
is undoubtedly an indie rock and post punk classic. It's multifaceted, remarkably consistent and an essential poster-child in musicianship and songwriting in general. The record is perfectly produced and complements the sublimely crafted musical compositions flawlessly. If there is an essential Smiths album, it is definitely this record; which certainly speaks volumes due to the band's incredibly consistent discography. One thing is for sure, the Queen's light never goes out under the watchful eye of Morrissey and co.