Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 1/22/09
Following the release of the band's self-titled debut release in early 1984, the Smiths were the new heroes of British independent music as they've become the band that disenfranchised youths have championed. Thanks to hit singles like This Charming Man, William, It Was Really Nothing, and Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now, the Smiths were becoming the leading band for a new British indie scene as they brought an alternative to the overly-commercialized music of artists like Phil Collins and Paul Young along with the left-overs of acts from the new wave and synth-pop scene. The band's cult following was massive that their label Rough Trade decided to release a compilation of the band's non-LP singles, B-sides, rarities, and BBC radio sessions for the fans to have entitled Hatful of Hollow.
Featuring songs written by singer/lyricist Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr, Hatful of Hollow is a compilation of material cultivated from the band during the release of their debut album. Featuring non-LP singles along with BBC radio sessions from John Peel and David Jensen. The album includes B-sides that proved to be popular with fans including one that would eventually come out as a single of its own that would break the band into the American underground/alternative rock music scene. While the album features various versions of songs from the first album performed in radio sessions including the original single version of their first single Hand In Glove. The compilation is a record that would prove to be essential to fans of the Smiths.
The album begins with the non-LP single William, It Was Really Nothing with its fast, shimmering rhythm with Mike Joyce's rumbling beats and Johnny Marr's flourishing, washy semi-acoustic guitar riffs. With Morrissey singing in a clam, tenor vocal style with lyrics about a man marrying a fat girl for nothing, it showed Morrissey's dark-wit in his lyrics that featured Marr's elgaic, chiming arpeggio melodies that would be the basis for the Smiths' unique sound. From a May 1983 BBC session with John Peel comes a rough version of What Difference Does It Make? with loud, pounding rhythm section from Joyce's drums and Andy Rourke's rumbling bass. With Marr's ringing, arpeggio guitars and Morrissey's rough tenor vocals. Though it sounds like a radio session, the track showed an idea of what the Smiths were sounding like before the first album. From David Jensen's June 1983 radio session is These Things Take Time, an upbeat song with a thumping, driving rhythm from Joyce's hard-hitting drums and Rourke's wobbly bass. With Marr's rich, arpeggio guitar washes, Morrissey sings in a clearer, dramatic vocal style with lyrics filled with carelessness and wit as it's a standout cut.
From John Peel's September 1983 session is This Charming Man that doesn't feature the song's original, famed intro as it's shortened a bit. Though the sound is clearer than their earlier session with Peel, it's clearly a song that is in development with Marr's intricate guitar playing, thumping rhythms, and Morrissey's distant vocals which sounds a bit high in the recording. Next is the classic How Soon Is Now? that was originally a B-side from William, It Was Really Nothing. The six-minute, forty-five second track features a vibrato-style of guitar playing that swoons to the smooth but intense drumming of Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke's sturdy bass line. With Morrissey singing in a calm, haunting vocal style, the song is filled with poignant lyrics of loneliness and despair that also features Marr's amazing guitar playing with arpeggio riffs and flourishes that is truly defining in its solos and vibrato presentation. Handsome Devil from the May ‘83 Peel session is an upbeat, driving song with Joyce's swift drumming and Rourke's bouncy bass line as Marr plays fast, jangly riffs to Morrissey's detached yet hollow vocals with dark lyrics that are filled with Morrissey's wit and sense of melodrama.
The single version of Hand In Glove opens with a fading intro of ringing, intricate guitar playing from Marr with the thumping rhythms of Joyce and Rourke. While Morrissey's vocal seems more distant than in the remix version, it's still one of the song's highlights as the difference in the mixes between the original single and remixed version on the band's debut is the fade-in intro and Morrissey's vocal mix. Still Ill from the debut album appears from the September 1983 John Peel session with its rough mix that features a chug-like opening rhythm and swift, mid-tempo signature changes with Morrissey's vocal sounding hollow. While it's a song that sounds closer to its final version from the album with Marr's chiming guitar melodies, it would show the promise the band would have in the year to come. The non-LP single Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now is one of the band's great songs thanks to Johnny Marr's flourishing, jangly guitar playing filled with washy riffs and intricate melodies during the guitar solos. With a mid-tempo rhythm led by Joyce's drums and filled by Rourke's hollow bass, Morrissey's dramatic vocal styles mixed in with his despairing lyrics are key to one of the band's greatest songs.
From Peel's September ‘83 session is The Night Has Opened My Eyes is a smooth, thumping track led by Morrissey's quiet, hollow vocals, Rourke's sturdy bass line, Joyce's slow drums, and Marr's spurting guitar riffs. With Morrissey's reflective lyrics, it's a nice song though its rough production tends to be its only major flaw. You've Got Everything Now from the June ‘83 Jensen session is an upbeat track with Rourke's wobbly bass line, Joyce's propelling drums, and Marr's washy riffs as Morrissey sings melancholic lyrics through his hollow vocals. With Marr playing rich, chiming melodies during the middle section of the song, it's a standout cut from the band. Accept Yourself from Jensen's August ‘83 session is another upbeat track with thumping rhythms that features breaking bass beats and a superb production that is clean as Marr's arpeggio, washy guitar playing really shine along with Morrissey's vocals and witty lyrics filled with despair.
The B-side track Girl Afraid from the single for Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now is a swift, jangly track with sputtering beats and bouncy bass lines along with Marr's melodic guitar swirls as Morrissey sings fearful lyrics with his calm, soothing vocals. Marr's intricate guitar playing and Morrissey's vocals are the highlight along with its swift, sputtering rhythms making it a fantastic B-side. Back To The Old House from the September ‘83 Peel session is an acoustic ballad featuring Marr's enchanting, melodic guitar playing and Morrissey's calm vocals sung with haunting lyrics about loss and nostalgia. From the Peel Session in May of 1983 is a rough version of Reel Around The Fountain from the band's debut album. With a louder drum mix and a more intense bass performance, Morrissey's vocals sound more engaging along with Marr's guitar playing though the mix of the guitar is in the background. The album closer is a B-side from William, It Was Really Nothing in the acoustic ballad Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want. The smooth, acoustic ballad performed by Morrissey and Marr has Morrissey singing poignant, nostalgic lyrics with Marr playing flourishing, intricate guitar riffs. Morrissey's vocals are the highlight along with a shimmering, rich mandolin solo from Marr that closes the song as it's one of the band's high moments.
The album was released in 1984 as it became a hit with fans of the Smiths. Yet, the B-side for How Soon Is Now? reached into the U.S. college radio stations as it would become an underground hit attracting the attention of Sire Records who would release the band's albums in the U.S. for the remainder of their career. The song would also be included as a bonus track in the American version of the band's sophomore studio release Meat is Murder. The B-side Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want would famously be covered by the Dream Academy that would make its most famous appearance in John Hughes' 1986 film Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
Hatful of Hollow is an excellent compilation record from the Smiths featuring fantastic B-sides, rarities, and non-LP singles including the 80s staple How Soon Is Now? While some of the mixing from the BBC sessions might be a bit rough in some parts, the rare tracks are the reason for fans to have this record along with the B-sides since singles have now become a thing of the past. For fans of the Smiths, it's a record that is truly worth having as it's one of those compilations outside of best-of albums to have. In the end, Hatful of Hollow is a record that truly defines the brilliance of the Smiths.
The Smiths Albums: The Smiths - Meat is Murder - The Queen is Dead - Louder Than Bombs - Strangeways, Here We Come
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