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#47 The Smiths – Strangeways Here We Come

The Smiths – Strangeways Here We Come

Strangeways Here We Come is the Smith’s swan song. The band would break up a couple short months after recording the album which makes the title somewhat suggestive. For me the Smiths were always the R.E.M. counterpart across the great pond, who throughout the 80’s per the primary challengers in the UK rock scene.. While Stipe and Morrissey wrote about different subjects lyrically, musically the bands were similar sounding insofar as the guitarists relished the sounds of the Rickenbacker.

Still, Steven Patrick Morrissey is one of a kind. Part egotistical, part maligned and maybe a bit emotionally unstable, there is still a loveable quality to Morrissey whose stage persona seems to have always been true to himself. He preens and prances and flaunts like a queen for everyone to see. The fans play the role to a T, bum rushing the stage at the perfect moments just to touch him or hand him a rose. (Obviously trying to get onstage early on, might scare Mister Morrissey off and end a show prematurely so make sure it’s later on in the night) He is not the most reliable individual in terms of showing up for a show. I seem to remember that years ago, he was going to spend a week on the Craig Kilborn show only to cancel every day of the week. He recently cancelled most of his most recent American tour for various ailments that you would almost wish that Edward Rooney would go searching for him.

Still if you look back at the 80’s as a whole, the Smith’s legacy is probably, in my opinion,the strongest to come out of Great Britain during that era. While, at the time there were several synth bands that might have received much of the notoriety, or even bands like U2 or the Cure who’ve had more lengthy careers, it’s the Smiths that will continue to inspire artists, musicians and singers down the road. There has to be someone that can string together the crazy self-absorbed lyrics that Morrissey was able to write through the first half of the decade that were both serious and seriously funny.

On “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before”, he Morrisey admits to loving you but only slightly less than he did before.

(Of course I can imagine if I tried to pull this shit with my wife that she would not be throwing roses at me.)

On the surface the song suggests a relationship gone wrong but this should not just be considered a romantic relationships. The title implores the idea that the band had not really deviated from its sound throughout it’s short career and the comment above could be directed at the music press who seemingly found it in their nature to criticize that facet of their albums.

‘Girlfriend in a Coma’, has that same sarcastic underbelly. “Girlfriend in a Coma, I know, I know, it’s serious”, played over some wistful melody and to me that is where the dark humor lies. For example, there lacks the seriousness of “Death of A Disco Dancer”, for example, but rather sounds like an uplifting pop song. The same could be said for “Unhappy Birthday” which was clearly not all that hateful sounding when Johnny Marr wrote the music for it.

I would be curious to see what the band’s legacy would have been like if they had soldiered on past ‘Strangeways’, whether they would have tried to reinvent their sound or rather the breakup was a necessary component to keep their legacy intact.

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