The Smiths remains an incredible statement of intent.
Daryl Easlea 2007-04-23
It is difficult to describe just how different The Smiths sounded when it was released in early 1984. In an era of overproduced crash, bang and very often, wallop, this album defined northern British pop in a manner not unlike the Beatles had two decades earlier. Vocalist and lyricist Steven Patrick Morrissey cut a very singular swathe with lyrics that quoted freely from kitchen sink dramas, great literary heritage, and, in doing so, gave awkward youth its new (and enduring) hero.
After the group crashed on to the scene with their debut single, “This Charming Man”, in summer 1983, The Smiths was initially recorded with ex-Teardrop Explodes guitarist Troy Tate as producer, before abandoning it and getting ex-Roxy Music producer and bassist, John Porter, in to re-record. The sound – playing to Johnny Marr’s obsession with 60s guitar supported by Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke’s economical rhythm section – created a music, that like its accompanying lyrics, was completely out of step with the times, yet has come to define them as much as any Frankie Goes To Hollywood track.
Morrissey's utter disdain for playing pop's game, combined with the group's control over their artwork and being part of Rough Trade mapped out a new stage of indie music; blending classic, focussed melodies with this witty intensity, tackling taboo subjects such as child abuse (“Reel Around The Fountain”), the Moors Murders (“Suffer Little Children” with its infamous “Manchester, so much to answer for” line) and sexual politics, dressed in pretty, northern music. Although it’s not their greatest work, The Smiths remains an incredible statement of intent.