on May 29, 2007
I'm not a kid, and I'm not a music reviewer. But the soundtrack of my collegiate life -- and even on into my middle-aged life now -- was dominated by The Smiths and Morrissey. (And just to gloat, I got to see Morrissey in concert Friday at a tiny venue, and it was awesome.)
I can't recall the first Smiths song I ever heard, but I know who played it for me. My best friend had musical tastes far more wide-ranging than me, and he convinced me to give them a listen. I won't go so far as to say it changed my life, as another reviewer did, but The Smiths' music stunned me with its depth and raw emotion. I acquired one CD of theirs after another, then got Morrissey's solo work, adding each new recording as it came and loading up on imports, bootlegs and singles.
When I went to England, "Everyday Is Like Sunday" was the song I listened to repeatedly on the flight. And when a break-up with a girlfriend devastated me, I turned to the live version of "I Know It's Over" from "Rank" -- and to The Smiths' stark debut album. "It's time the tale were told of how you took a child and you made him old." My youthful, angst-ridden, college boy self found no better words to express how I felt.
Now I'm older, happier, married and largely angst-free. But I still love The Smiths and Morrissey's entire canon of work. It is inextricably bound to my memories, and with Morrissey still recording, it promises to go on with me as the future turns into the past.
One reviewer here said there's a dud on every Smiths album. I disagree. Every Smiths song, from the most tortured to the most frivolous, works on an emotional level; you just have to hear it at the right time.
on February 7, 2002
The Smiths were the best musical moment of the 1980s -- I know, I lived through them. This album is probably my favourite, and must be in the canon of amazing debuts: nothing like it before, and nothing since. For one thing, there was the cover art. At at time when most bands favoured monochromatic "new wave" dots and blobs, the covers were sober, nostalgic, personal and iconic. Crushingly vivid colours and their signature style made it exciting just to *see* their albums. In this case, the murky photo of Joe Dellesandro gives a hint of the Morrissey world view and aestheticism, but it's ambiguous and out of context, meaning that the Smiths became very hard to "brand."
But of course the appeal of this record came from its musical beauty. Morrissey's plangent, steady voice was astonishing, but moreso were his lyrics. "I dreamt about you last night, and I fell out of bed twice/ you can pin and mount me, like a butterfly." Reel Around the Fountain still gives me goosebumps -- it's an anthem which evokes not just the usual teen angst, but what is unusual, and sad, and real about it as well.
I love every track, but most of all its wonderful beginning, the glorious insouciance of "Hand In Glove," and the mordant "Suffer Little Children" which evokes the grisly Moors Murders as a foundation myth for Mancusian angst, but also for all of us who were trying to sort out the sixties of our childhoods in the early eighties. Morrissey & Marr, along with Squeeze, were the poets of the eighties, and this cd will give you a rich sense of its virtues, rather than the gelled and synthesised excess most people know.
on August 8, 2004
When guitarist Johnny Marr was seeking a lyricist in the spring of 1982, little did he know that the band he would be forming would be a huge influence on the British rock scene for the years to come. Stephen Patrick Morrissey (who unsuccessfully auditioned with the lead singing role with local Manchester bands, as well as being the president of the U.K. New York Dolls fanclub) gladly accepted Marr's invitation and soon the pair began writing songs together, with the first being "Suffer Little Children". After recording demo's with The Fall's drummer, Simon Wolstencroft, Marr decided to recruit schoolmates Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce as the bassist and drummer, hencing a band that would be known as "The Smiths".
The Smiths began working on their eponymous debut album in the months that followed, and released it entitled "The Hand That Rocks The Cradle" (which was on a low budget) with producer Troy Tate. The band was not happy with the production of the album, and immediately got John Porter to produce it. Not long after, the band's debut album, "The Smiths", was finished.
A surprisingly very good debut album, it proved just how much The Smiths were willing to go in the music industry. From their first single, "Hand In Glove", to "Pretty Girls Make Graves", all the way up to "I Don't Owe You Anything", every track on this album will not disappoint.
1. Reel Around The Fountain: The opening track of The Smiths, this five-minute song proves that the band were willing enough to explore all directions. The keyboards and organ flow well with the song, which is about nothing less than sexual desire.
2. You've Got Everything Now: A much faster song than the slow opener, this is one of those songs that you can play over and over. This song explains the story of a failed life.
3. Miserable Lie: The most rocking song of the album will have you jumping up out of your seat if your not careful. The song is about love, with it simply being a miserable lie (and you're find out why).
4. Pretty Girls Make Graves: One of the best songs of the album comes into play early. The slower song explains to us about a relationship gone wrong, with the words "I'm not the man you think I am".
5. The Hand That Rocks The Cradle: A very good song follows the previous hopeless tune. This song is usually slated to be about child abuse, but singer Morrissey doesn't necessarily agree. Judge for yourself.
6. This Charming Man: An upbeat song proves that this was the right choice for the second single. A favorite for the critics' to question Morrisey, it is about a decision for the man over his love options.
7. Still Ill: A surely unforgettable song, Morrissey's crooning voice and saddened lyrics fit in perfectly with the tune. It is reflecting about enjoyable times which is now long gone.
8. Hand In Glove: This song will prove to you why The Smiths were such a influential band. The band's first single is a fast paced song full of controversy. It is about homosexuality.
9. What Difference Does It Make?: The Smiths continue to hand us great songs again and again. The third single will surely attach to you.
10. I Don't Owe You Anything: Probably the weakest song of the album, but nevertheless very good. It is about a daily chat while appearing to be drunk.
11. Suffer Little Children: This closing song is about the Moors Murders, an event during the 1960's in which several children were abducted and killed in Manchester. The haunting lyrics will clearly leave an impression on the listener.
Overall, a surprisingly very good debut album. It took a while before The Smiths found their sound, but this album is truly a must have. With songs like "Hand In Glove", "This Charming Man", and "Suffer Little Children", among the other greats on this album, I highly recommend this album, especially to first time listeners.
on April 1, 2002
Having heard first the best of/singles compilations, The Queen is Dead, Strangeways Here We Come and a number of Morrissey's solo albums, and having read of Morrissey's extravagant boasts prior to the release of this record, The Smiths was a surprise.
It's so quiet, so introspective, so humble almost.
It crept into my heart slowly, after repeated listens.
The structure of the songs is very simple. Their strength lies primarily in Morrissey's beautiful voice and lyrics. Overall, the latter seem more personal here than on any other Smiths/Morrissey album.
The Smiths is also the most haunting album, made so particularly by Suffer Little Children and The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, two beautiful but almost unbearably disturbing songs.
The 11 songs on The Smiths, with the exception of the last, explore dark, sometimes unsettling aspects of love and relationships.
I'm still learning and I won't call myself an expert by any means, but I can name no one who tackles personal dysfunction - desperation, insecurity, delusion, dependency - with as much honesty and with as sharp a ring of truth as does Morrissey.
Other bands use garish make-up, distorted guitars and vocals and other gimmicks to shock or disturb.
But The Smiths deliver a bigger emotional jolt using impeccable melody and a warm voice singing lyrics like these:
"... a child cries: 'find me, find me, nothing more/We're on a sullen misty moor/We may dead and we may be gone/But we will be right by your side/Until the day you die/This is no easy ride/We will haunt you when you laugh/Yes, you could say we're a team/You might sleep/But you will never dream'" (Suffer Little Children) and
"There'll be blood on the cleaver tonight/When darkness lifts and the room is bright/I'll still be by your side/For you are all that matters/And I'll love you till the day I die/There never need be longing in your eyes/As long as the hand that rock the cradle is mine."
Listen and squirm.
on June 18, 2000
The Smiths broke onto the scene in 1984 with this thought-provoking album. 16 Years later, the music is still powerful, the themes still poignant.
From this album, there are at least 5 songs that find themselves onto most Smith's greatest hits compilations (Reel around the Fountain, This Charming Man, Still Ill, Hand in Glove, and What difference does it Make?), so right there that's got to tell you that folks who like the Smiths have a pretty high regard for this album.
Personally, I enjoyed the lesser-known ones on this. "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle" is one of the most haunting ballads I've ever heard. "Pretty Girls Make Graves" shows Morrissey's delicate side as well as his loathing for those who try for the "quick and easy way." "Suffer Little Children" is the sad story of brutal child murders in Manchester. Morrissey and Co. give a very appropriate eulogy to these poor children.
Don't get the idea that this album is all a downer. There are plenty of upbeat songs and ones where Morrissey's subtle humor shines through. At some points the Smiths sound like the raw band that they were at that time. At other times, you'd think that they'd had been together for years since the music is so polished.
This probably isn't the first Smith's album to get if you're new to them because of the serious themes dealt with here. However, if you've heard something like "Smith's The Singles" or "Best of..." and are looking for something even deeper, this is the place to go.
on October 14, 2007
Put on a really good set of headphones and listen to this album, there is no muddiness at all on this work. You hear the guitars, bass, drums, and voice - all distinct yet oh-so-drop-dead-gorgeously intertwined. The music is played so head-on that you get a sense that there is no sense or room for pretense. There is something almost classically baroque about the over-all structure of the songs and melodies that I find gives this album a "classical" and enduring feel to it. The later Smiths/Morrissey works tend to have a more theatrical or orchestral feel to them that while beautiful and grand seems to somehow rely too much on electronic drapery ("How Soon Is Now" being a lead example) you go back and listen those songs and then go back this album, their most seminal work in my humble opinion.
Now I LOVE all of The Smiths/Morrisey's work but their debut album to me is lyrically, musically, rhythmically, vocally, politically, socially, romantically, sexually, and spiritually, their most honest, direct, and purest to who they are/were. I'm not a rock critic but to me this album never ceases to amaze me that every time I listen to it, I always think what a little miracle this album really is - dare I say it is one of the most brilliant and miraculous musical points in rock history.
on May 13, 2006
I had a group of friends that were into the smiths in the mid 80's but I was never really a fan until someone got me to pay attention to thier lyrics. This is without a doubt my favorite albumn of thiers. It is not as slick as the later albumns but song for song this cd is GREAT. Alot of critics say this albumn does not live up to the Smiths' ability but the underproduction is one of the best things of the albumn. If you are looking for a hits albumn get one of the compilations but if you want to hear the beginnings of a sound still going strong today this is the one.
on October 8, 2001
The Smiths have (and have had for as long as I can remember) such a bizarre following. I admit, I was once one of them, the followers. I, like them, had all the albums and singles on vinyl, and I memorized all the lyrics, I had an all too big poster of Morrissey on my wall, too big for a straight guy like me, etc. etc.
I still like this album, though I never upgraded to CD as I have with the obvious ones (The Queen Is Dead, Meat Is Murder, Strangeways Here We Come). But what I like so much about this album is the rawness. Especially on Miserable Lie. Miserable Lie is more seething and demanding than possibly anything they have ever done since as a band. In Miserable Lie (and Still Ill), one can hear the heavier influences that Morrissey and Marr were always so vocal about; New York Dolls, Warsaw (later, Joy Division), and Sparks.
A year later, The Smiths released a 45rpm with Sandie Shaw in Morrissey's place and The Smiths behind her, Hand In Glove b/w I Don't Owe You Anything. A fantastic rarity. But, here is where it all started. And, so should you if you don't quite know the Smiths yet.
on December 28, 2005
I'll be honest and admit that I like "The Queen Is Dead" a lot more than this, but I can still understand why this is also a classic. Morrissey sounds as inspired and fresh as he did on their debut, and he even tries to be experimental in a couple tracks (see "Miserable Lie"). He's not immediately likable at first (like he was on "The Queen Is Dead"), but he'll definitely grow on you. The lyrics here are all very well-written, deep and sometimes quotable - you'll definitely like listening to them closely ("I would go out tonight, but I haven't got a stitch to wear" is a personal favorite). Musically it has a sound reminiscent of R.E.M.'s jangle pop, but they manage to sound different even with these kinds of similarities - the musicianship is very well done, interesting and well-produced here. Most people probably only know the hit "What Difference Does It Make?", but every track here is good - I would argue that one song people will most likely hate for a long time is "Miserable Lie" because of Morrissey's seemingly irritating wailing towards the end (I hated it for a LONG time). However, if you can look past his singing for a minute and listen to the lyrics and the music itself then one can see how fantastic "The Smiths" is. Absolutely recommended (along with "The Queen Is Dead")!
"The Hand That Rocks The Cradle"
"This Charming Man"
"Hand In Glove"
"What Difference Does It Make?"
"I Don't Owe You Anything"
the rest are also good
Full disclosure here; when The Smiths started inching closer to becoming my favorite band, I didn't, initially, think that their first album was that great. Not for any particular reason, mind you...I just didn't find any of these songs clicking the way tracks from their other albums had done. It was sheer laziness that lead to me to realize how great this album is (it's amazing what you can discover when you want to listen to "Reel Around the Fountain" and are too lazy to turn the rest of the album off). This 1984 debut album from Morrissey, Johnny Marr, Andy Rourke, and Mike Joyce is a perfect example of the music that they would continue to bless us with until their breakup a mere 3 years later. The songs are upbeat, poppy, and melancholy with bitingly true and poignant lyrics with a beauty that only The Smiths could provide.
Out of the album's 11 songs, only two stood out the first several times I listened to the album. The opening track "Reel Around the Fountain," a beauty, moody opener. It's one of The Smiths most beautiful songs without a doubt...The other was "Pretty Girls Make Graves," with the incessantly catchy refrain "I'm not the man you think I am..."
But this album has 9 more songs and every single one is great. With that said, there are songs on here that reviewers of this album have already pointed out; You've Got Everything Now, Miserable Lie, This Charming Man, and Hand in Glove. I love each and every one of these songs, but I want to talk about the more underrated tracks.
First of all, "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle," one of the most beautiful songs in The Smiths catalogue. The lyrics are terrific, but it's the way they all flow together and the way Morrissey sings them with a subtle sense of urgency that makes it so great. "Still Ill" is a great song, a sort-of nostalgic memory converted to music...Morrissey has said that "What Difference Does It Make?" is one of his least-favorite Smiths songs. Moz is a little too self-judgmental it would seem, as I've loved this song since I heard it. "I Don't Owe You Anything" is rarely spoken of, but here's another slow-moving song. The amount of longing and pathos that Morrissey injects into these lyrics is very powerful. No other singer/lyricist could sing "I don't owe you anything...But you owe me something, repay me now" and make it sound important. The album closes with "Suffer Little Children," a song about the Moors murders. This is the least accessible song on the album without a doubt...It's the song I never thought I would really start to enjoy, but after several listens this is a great song too. Not the kind you'd put on just to pass time, certainly...But it's great.
This album and the rest of The Smiths catalogue show why the band has had the staying power it has. Recorded in 1983 and released in 1984, this album has a sound that identifies it as an `80s production but this is nothing like any of the music that was coming out of that era. The Smiths, in their brief career, created something that was beautiful and unique...And it's remained the same since then. This debut album is one of their strongest works and is either my favorite or second favorite of the band's work.
The Smiths aren't a band for the masses and I like that; the fact that some people can't appreciate or enjoy this band only makes them more special in my opinion...A budding Smiths fan or a long-time Smiths fan will not want to pass this album up, as it's a musical masterpiece and, if you are a Smiths fan, I'm sure you'll agree.