The Smiths

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Meat is Murder

The Smiths - Meat is Murder ©1985 Sire
1. The Headmaster Ritual
2. Rusholme Ruffians
3. I Want the One I Can't Have
4. What She Said
5. That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore
6. How Soon is Now
7. Nowhere Fast
8. Well I Wonder
9. Barbarism Begins at Home
10. Meat is Murder

While it introduced the world to the fan-favorite "How Soon is Now" and a few other classic Smiths tracks, Meat is Murder is as prime an example of the overused term "sophomore slump". The fault lies with both Jonny Marr's aimless and occasionally overlong songs and Morrissey's overtly sourpuss stance that comes across as more whiny than sardonic (especially on the limp-dicked and ineffectual protest song that is the title track), not to mention his own penchant for aimless repetition in the vocal department. Still, "Rusholme Ruffians" is a nice little rockabilly number, "I Want the One I Can't Have" is shimmering guitar pop at its finest, and "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore" is a personal and sad ballad that only Team MorriMarr could deliver. At the end of the day, however, many of these songs ("How Soon is Now" among them) simply run out of ideas within the first three or four minutes, and one gets the impression that the album feels too long even at the standard running time of 46 minutes.

The Smiths would bounce back in the greatest possible way with their masterpiece, The Queen is Dead, release one more album, and combust a short time later, releasing its two main members to other avenues of wildly varying quality.

Review by Alec A. Head

Review date: 08/2009

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The Queen Is Dead

The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead ©1986 Sire
1. The Queen Is Dead Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty (Medley)
2. Frankly, Mr.Shankly
3. I Know It's Over
4. Never Had No One Ever
5. Cemetry Gates
6. Bigmouth Strikes Again
7. The Boy With The Thorn In His Side
8. Vicar In A Tutu
9. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
10. Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others

Conflagrating the synth-driven new wave scene of the early 1980s, the Smiths burst onto the British pop scene with an entirely original and innovative guitar-driven approach to pop songwriting and a veritable bushel of amazing albums, singles, b-sides, and rarities, not to mention Morrissey's well-publicized and often ridiculous leftist outcries advocating vegetarianism, celibacy, and 60s pop, among many other things. With guitarist Johnny Marr's angular approach to pop songwriting and Morrissey's morose crooning and charming, overtly British lyrical wit, I think I can objectively prove that the Smiths were one of the most influential bands of the 1980s. Radiohead, the Divine Comedy, Sunny Day Real Estate, Travis, a bevy of emo, rock, pop, and punk bands, and even the late Jeff Buckley, among other artists, would not be around had it not been for the Smiths' precedence.

This, their third and last official full-length album, is a spectacular showcase of skillful pop songcraft and impassioned, charming lyrical wit. "Frankly, Mr.Shankly" is a bouncy, almost joyous ditty that provides a rather interesting contrast to Morrissey's vengeful lyrics ("Frankly, Mr.Shankly, since you asked/You are a flatulent pain in the arse"). The beautiful "I Know It's Over" probably served as a wonderful catharsis for lonesome teenagers everywhere, and "Vicar in a Tutu," a fun, rockabilly track advocating alternative lifestyles, never ceases to put a smile on my face. Even though every track on this album is either extremely good or jaw-droppingly excellent, no track matches the ascendant, beautiful pop mastery of the classically driven "The Boy with a Thorn in his Side," and the hopeful, sad disaffections of "There is a Light Never Goes Out" ("…and if a double-decker bus crashes into us/to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die/and if a ten-ton truck kills the both of us/to die by your side/the pleasure and the privilege is mine").

Throughout their short and turbulent duration as a band that culminated in a breakup that is much akin to spontaneous combustion, the Smiths exuded a passionate and skillful knack for writing good, charming, and meaningful songs that neither Johnny Marr nor Morrissey have been able to recreate as succinctly on their solo endeavors as they had with the Smiths.

Review by Alec A. Head

Review date: 03/2002

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