38 Strangeways Here We Come by the Smiths 1987
It is hard to explain just how important the Smiths were as I was growing up. 5 years older or 5 years younger and you would wonder what all the fuss was about or think of them as a quite good guitar band that made a couple of decent lps.
However growing up in the land that time forgot of 1980s fens my world was split into those that loved the Smiths and those (the vast majority who were still stuck in the last mod revival) that hated the Smiths. Right from the first top of the pops appearance for This Charming Man to the thunderous intro to What Difference Does it Make at the local indie disco I was hooked.
I remember long drunken conversations (too much orange cordial and vodka) on the meaning of the lyrics and friends admitting to a sense of disappointment when How Soon is Now (probably their masterpiece) was promoted from a b side to a single and stopped being our song.
Queen is Dead is the one that is often held up as their best but I love their final lp. Its classic quit while at the top. The lp gives a glimpse of the potential the Smith had beyond jangly guitars and Morrissey's personality. It is no accident that both Morrissey and Marr choose this as the best Smiths lps.
By its release the band were already no more , Marr leaving based on what now seems like a misunderstanding and inability to communicate with each other (that and his frustration at having to cover a Twinkle song for a b side.)
For an lp where both songwriters were trying to move the Smiths away from the Smiths sound the opening single was very smiths like. Less than 3 mins with a slight vaudeville feel behind a sparkly bit of acoustic guitar. This is one of those tracks that a lot of Smiths fans cite as one of their worst ( one comment I've seen is" like Spitting Image doing the Smiths") , but I love it even if it is a Smith song for beginners
Morrissey is in the finest of voices and his lyrics are as quirky a ever
"There's too much caffeine in your blood stream
And a lack of real spice in your life"
"Has the Perrier gone straight to my head"
There are some "traditional" Smiths songs but with a bigger sharper sound and listening back it seems a closer relation to Morrissey's first solo lp than The Queen is Dead
There is a bitterness to the lyrics, with Paint a Vulgar picture a direct attack on the music industry and it never ending
Re-issue ! Re-package ! Re-package !
Re-evaluate the songs
Double-pack with a photograph
Extra Track (and a tacky badge) Which is ironic as The Smiths are probably only second to the Rolling Stones in terms of never ending compilations.
As ever though some of the sharpest lines were hidden in the prettiest tunes
Unhappy Birthday - The Smiths
You can buy Strangeways Here We Come here