English singer Steven Patrick Morrissey is better known by his stage name “Morrissey,” and he shot to fame as the singer with 1980’s alternative band The Smiths. Morrissey captured the attention of a worldwide audience, but The Smiths music resonated most strongly with those in his native Manchester. Morrissey’s lyrics reflected the lives of working class youth in England and his dry, acerbic wit, and his political views hit out at the establishment and at Margaret Thatcher’s brand of politics. With songs like “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” Morrissey’s lyrics were downbeat and hard-hitting, a theme that continued into his solo work after The Smiths broke up in 1987.
Here goes with day 4 of my countdown of 75 Albums that in my opinion should have a place in everyones music collection. They are not in any particular order though the top 10 will be my personal take on the top 10 albums ever released. You might be surprised at some of my picks and some of my omissions. Feel free to chime in with your comments and let me know if you love (or hate my choices).
The Smiths – The Smiths
There have been better bands than the Smiths, but in my view there has never been a band that better reflected the time and the environment that brought then into the limelight in 1984. At a time when the British music scene was dominated by the over produced synthesiser pop so typical of the “New Romantic’ scene it is difficult to describe just how different The Smiths sounded when this album was released. This album defined northern British music and along with Joy Division they gave birth to what was to become known as the ‘Madchester’ music scene. In the days before he became a self important prick Morrissey cut a distinctive and enigmatic swathe through the UK music scene and gave awkward youth its new hero. Morrissey’s vocal combined with Marr’s driving 60’s influenced guitar licks gave the Smiths a sound that was unlike anything else around at the time.
Their debut eponymous album defined their sound. Morrissey’s penchant for tackling controversial and often taboo issues such as child abuse (“Reel Around The Fountain”), the Moors Murders (“Suffer Little Children”) and sexual politics, with wit and irony gave The Smiths an edge that was absent elsewhere.
Morrissey had a distinctively ironic and literate viewpoint and his strangeness was accentuated by his off-kilter voice. Whilst very few of the songs followed conventional verse-chorus structure they were quite melodic within their own right. the songs are vital and alive, developing a new and unique voice within pop music. Though the Smiths continued to improve over the course of their career, their debut remains startling and exciting. It is a great album and it sounds as fresh today as it did when it was released.