The Smiths, so much to answer for.
It’s been 30 years since The Smiths (album, not the band) was dropped without warning on a synth-suffocated population; one that had managed to keep “Relax” in the charts for some 42 weeks. Disco had become an ugly word in the 1980’s, and whilst the emergence of hip-hop ensured the survival of groove, mainstream chart acts felt stiff – probably because of the shoulder pads.
The Smiths (band, not the album) combined elements of folk, funk and long forgotten disco, all of which provided the basis for one of music’s biggest enigmas – Morrissey. This pale, gangly looking Chap from Davyhulme, Manchester wrote for tortured souls who found no solace in the spew Paul Young was putting out.
‘Suffer Little Children’ caused controversy; touching upon the Moors Murders and earning Morrissey a reputation as a rather grim and depressed soul; A-side ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’ (not actually featured on the debut), did little to change this view. But, as any discerning Smiths fan will tell you, the masters lyrics are full of whit and tongue-in-cheek brilliance, ‘Still Ill’ serves as one of the greatest examples “Under the iron bridge we kissed/ although I ended up with sore lips”.
The melancholia can’t all be pinned on Mozza; Marr’s rolling, arpeggiated chords carry their own significance. Much has been made about the production of the album, Morrissey criticises the sound in his autobiography, saying “The album sounds exactly how the Smiths were not: pasty and thin”. And while this rings true on tracks like ‘Miserable Lie’ which sits bare, the Smiths are at their most powerful as a four piece on the tragic love tale ‘Hand In Glove’ and the infectious ‘This Charming Man’.
The Smiths not only pushed Morrissey and Marr into the limelight, but also its now famous label Rough Trade and Manchester itself – creating unlikely landmarks “What do we get for our trouble and pain?…Whalley Range”
Hopes of a reunion have been dashed even for the most optimistic, leaving the two iconic Mancunians to battle it out for solo success.