The Sound Of The Smiths review + competition; listening party links

The Smiths

Very few music fans who were around during the mid-eighties were indifferent to The Smiths – you might love them or hate them, like Marmite really, but you were unlikely not to have much of an opinion. This is what drove their success of course - the fans were the kind of fans who would queue for hours, days even, to get tickets for gigs or the latest release.

With that kind of adoration, the fact that there was also a bunch of people going around saying how much they hated them (not simply didn't think much of, or even actively disliked, but hated) only served to intrigue the uninitiated, who would then be all the more likely to buy the latest single/album/gig ticket to see what all the fuss was about, and would then either end up slagging them off at every opportunity or queuing for hours in the rain in Wolverhampton hoping to sneak in to the show.

Not that you could do much to get away from them during their heyday, they were everywhere, Top of the Pops, NME, Smash Hits even. For a few years, the Smiths simply were indie music - not that there was too much competition - never forget this is the era that gave us the Wonderstuff and Neds Atomic Dustbin.

The reason they elicited such polarised opinions was of course their front man, Morrissey, he of the curiously flowered back pocket. The music was new too, no doubt, and influential (Travis and Coldplay are the distant dismal ancestors of their bright sparkly sound) but they were riding the wave the new style, rather than being its originators, and anyway, it wasn't the kind of musical revolution that inspired deep seated passion in and of itself (unlike punk which felt like the end of the world or a new dawn depending on how many Emerson Lake and Palmer records you had). No, when a white-socked casual said they hated the Smiths, what they meant was they hated Morrissey, his attitude, his persona, the whole world-view expressed in his lyrics.

This double CD, 'The Sound Of The Smiths', complete with glossy photo booklet, is a pretty impressive document of the band's activities over those five years from '83-'87, all the singles, most of the B-sides, some live recordings and alternative takes. The obsessive fans will have all this stuff already, the equally passionate haters would rather gnaw off their own genitals than have to sit through nearly two hours of the stuff; I guess the CD is intended to introduce the kids to their back catalogue and a jolly good job it will do of that.

For myself, I can't believe that this stuff is all upwards of twenty years old. Given that it is all such ancient history, the band sounds fantastic. No scrap that, the band sounds fantastic full stop. I remember loving Johnny Marr's guitar then, and I still do now, but I had forgotten (or not noticed) how effective the rhythm section of Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce was. Those three drove the songs along beautifully, and the music they produced was timeless.

Although I owned a few Smiths records, and thanks to my friend Marcus (who was one of those obsessive fans) listened to pretty much all of it at one time or another, I was never able to make that jump into full-scale fandom, and it was Morrissey that got in my way. I was young and impressionable enough to think that I must have been missing something, perhaps I wasn't sensitive or poetic enough, I don't know, but now I am old and ornery I can say with my head held up high that he just wasn't much cop.

There is room for sensitive poetic young men in popular music, of course there is, but a room containing Nick Drake and Morrissey would only contain one sensitive poetic young man and he wouldn't be from Manchester. Sticking flowers down your trousers only makes you sensitive if you develop a rash; I challenge any listener to this CD to find even one line which shows any concern whatsoever for the feelings of others.

Writing couplets such as 'Does the mind rule the body or does the body rule the mind? I don't know' (and just sticking it in a song a propos of nothing) does not make you a poet, it only shows that you like to sound clever and profound and that you have no inclination towards metaphysical speculation. Come to think of it, Francis Rossi is more of a sensitive poetic young man than Morissey ever was. (Compare 'I was looking for a job and then I found a job' and 'I like it I like it I like it I like it I la-la-la-like it, la-la-la-like it'; at least in the latter the repetition imparts a rhythmic urgency to the sentiment rather than making the line fall flat on its face - I'm only half-joking.)

If you knew and loved the Smiths, buy this CD for completeness' sake. If you haven't heard them, buy it and make your own mind up. Me, I'm off to make some toast and see if I still like Marmite.

By: Jim Driscoll

*** To celebrate the release of The Sound Of The Smiths, an unprecedented 45-track Anthology of hits, b-sides, live tracks and rarities released November 10, 2008 in the UK and November 11th in the US, Inked is hosting a tattoo contest.

Entrants are eligible by submitting a photo of their Smiths and / or Morrissey tattoo. Grand prize winner will receive a copy of The Smiths UK Singles box set with a runner-up to receive a copy of the Deluxe 2-CD edition of The Sound Of The Smiths.

Contest ends November 30, 2008. More info at Inked / The Smiths ***

Listening Party Links:

wmedia - low
wmedia - high

Listening Party Track list:

1. Hand In Glove
2. This Charming Man
3. What Difference Does It Make? (Peel Session version)
4. How Soon Is Now? (12" version)
5. That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore
6. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
7. Panic
8. Girlfriend In A Coma
9. Meat Is Murder (Live)
10. The Queen Is Dead

The Smiths on

The Smiths on

The Sound Of The Smiths Track Listing (US release):


1. "Hand in Glove" - Single Version
2. "This Charming Man" - Single Version
3. "What Difference Does It Make" - Peel Sessions Version
4. "Still Ill" - Album Version
5. "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" - Single Version
6. "William, It Was Really Nothing" - Single Version
7. "How Soon Is Now?" - 12" Single
8. "Nowhere Fast" - Album Version
9. "Shakespeare's Sister" - Single Version
10. "Barbarism Begins At Home" - 7" Version
11. "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore" - Single Version
12. "The Headmaster Ritual" - Album Version
13. "The Boy With The Thorn In His Side" - Single Version
14. "Bigmouth Strikes Again" - Single Version
15. "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" - Album Version
16. "Panic" - Single Version
17. "Ask" - Single Version
18. "You Just Haven't Earned It Yet Baby" – Single Version
19. "Shoplifters Of The World Unite" - Single Version
20. "Sheila Take A Bow" - Single Version
21. "Girlfriend In A Coma" – Single Version
22. "I Started Something I Couldn't Finish" - Single Version
23. "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me" - Single Version

(Includes the Single CD along with the following)

1. "Jeane" – Single B-Side
2. "Handsome Devil" - - Single B-Side, Live 1983
3. "This Charming Man" (New York vocal)- 12" Single
4. "Wonderful Woman" - 12" Single
5. "Back To The Old House" - Single B-Side
6. "These Things Take Time" - 12" Single B-Side
7. "Girl Afraid" - Single B-Side
8. "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want" - Single B-Side
9. "Stretch Out And Wait" - Single B-Side
10. "Oscillate Wildly" - 12" Single B-Side
11. "Meat Is Murder" - Live In Oxford - Single B-Side
12. "Asleep" – Single B-Side
13. "Money Changes Everything" - Single B-Side
14. "The Queen Is Dead" "Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty" - Medley
15. "Vicar In A Tutu" - Single B-Side
16. "Cemetry Gates" - Single B-Side
17. "Half A Person" - Single B-Side
18. "Sweet And Tender Hooligan" - 12" Single B-Side
19. "Pretty Girls Make Graves" -- Single B-Side, Troy Tate Version
20. "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before" - Album Version
21. "What's The World" -Live In Glasgow
22. "London" - Live In London

The Smiths on Wikipedia

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One Response to The Sound Of The Smiths review + competition; listening party links

  1. JAKE says:

    you left out some quotes "i was looking for a job and then i found a job. and heaven knows I'm a miserable now"

    the "sensitive poet" is an image placed upon a musician by someone who is most likely not a musician. I challenge you to find one line in which Morrissey refers to himself as a sensitive poet.

    language should not be evaluated as "poetic" or "metaphysical". language is a system of sounds used to portray a message or create a feeling. both lines you quoted create feeling in you and in me, whether positive or negative.
    i have never heard any other pop singer who can sing like morrissey or who uses the language that he uses.

    I am not trying to start a internet battle or something, i just found this blog randomly. thanks for reading this.

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