Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 1/23/09.
Following the release of their debut album and the compilation album Hatful of Hollow, the Smiths were clearly becoming the new leaders of the British indie music scene. Bringing back guitar-driven pop in the age of synth-pop has made the Smiths heroes as fans found relevance with Morrissey's witty, dramatic lyrics while aspiring musicians found a new guitar hero in Johnny Marr. With hit singles reaching the British singles charts and becoming underground hits as well as college radio hits in the U.S., the Smiths were on the verge of becoming big in their native country. In early 1985, the Smiths would release their sophomore album entitled Meat Is Murder.
Produced and performed by the Smiths with engineering work from Stephen Street, Meat Is Murder is an album that allowed the band to diversify in various genres while sticking to their jangly, simplistic sound. The album's title refers to Morrissey and Johnny Marr's vegetarianism that is part of the album's lyrical themes along with more political content concerning the Margaret Thatcher era of Britain. While the record doesn't have the simplistic, introspective tone of the band's first album, it's still a fascinating record from the band featuring some great songs written by Morrissey and Marr.
The album opener The Headmaster Ritual is an upbeat, bouncy track with Marr's jangly riffs, Mike Joyce's hard hitting drums, and Andy Rourke's wobbly bass. Morrissey sings in his calm, tenor vocal with dramatic flair as he sings with his desperate, political lyrics. With Joyce's thumping back beats and Marr's intricate, melodic playing, it's a fitting opener to the album along with Morrissey's wailing vocal yelps in parts of the song. Rusholme Ruffians is another upbeat track with Joyce's thumping tracks, Marr's swift acoustic washes, and Rourke's rockabilly-style bass lines as Morrissey sings calmly. With lyrics filled with witty yet melancholic lyrics, it's a real standout due to its washy presentation mixed in with rockabilly-style riffs. I Want The One I Can't Have is thumping, swift track with upbeat, vibrant beats from Joyce and Rourke along with Marr's jangly, washy guitar riffs with arpeggio flourishes. With Morrissey's calm, operatic-like vocal style, he sings lyrics with despairing imagery and angst, it's another standout cut from the band.
What She Said is another upbeat track with shimmering rhythms and riffs with Marr playing more furiously as Morrissey sings in his high, calm vocal style. Featuring angst-laden lyrics and post-punk style rhythms, it's another cut that shows the band diversifying in their musical style with Morrissey providing stellar, unique vocals. The single That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore is a ballad-style track with Marr's washy acoustic introduction and Morrissey's melancholic lyrics with his calm, smooth vocals. With a slow, thumping rhythm to accompany Marr and Morrissey, it's one of the band's key singles that displays the band's versatile style with swooning guitars from Marr and Rourke's soft, wobbly bass lines.
A bonus track on American versions of the album is the classic single How Soon Is Now? that opens with Marr's vibrato guitar shimmers that features haunting swirls to Joyce's thundering, intense beats and Rourke's wobbly bass. With Morrissey's haunting vocals and eerie lyrics of alienation and sadness, it's the band's most defining hit as it features Marr's flourishing guitar arpeggio melodies. Morrissey's haunting lyrics including the famed chorus of "You shut your mouth, how can you say/I go about things the wrong way/I am Human and I need to be loved/Just like everybody else does". At six-minutes and forty-six seconds, it's truly one of the most defining songs of the 1980s and rock n' roll history. Nowhere Fast is a thumping, upbeat track with rollicking snare beats, warbling bass lines, and Marr's swift, washy guitar riffs featuring arpeggio melodies. With Morrissey's calm vocals and humorous lyrics with direct lyrics towards the Queen revealing the humor in Morrissey's political commentary.
Well I Wonder is a smooth, mid-tempo track with washy acoustic guitar riffs and a slow, thumping track as Morrissey sings in a calm, operatic-like vocal style. With Morrissey's dramatic lyrics of despair, the song is an excellent though not a real standout due to its rhythms and presentation despite Marr's rich acoustic guitar flourishes and Morrissey's vocals. Barbarism Begins At Home is a funk-inspired track with Rourke's funky bass wobbles, sputtering beats by Joyce, and Marr's swanky, spurting guitar riffs. While the sound towards funk shows a new side to the Smiths, the song isn't that great due to Morrissey's anti-corporal punishment lyrics that are a bit too obtuse to gather despite Morrissey's vocals. The album closer is the title track that is a pro-vegetarian track that opens with swirls of distorted guitar noises and eerie, low piano notes as it becomes this smooth, ballad-like track with thumping rhythms and Marr's washy acoustic guitar and piano accompaniment. With Morrissey's soft, haunting vocals, the song tells dark lyrics suggesting Morrissey's vegetarianism stance as it's a fitting closer to the album featuring sounds of animal noises.
Released in early 1985 to excellent reviews, the album reached the number one U.K. album charts for one week which proved to be a surprise. Outside of compilation albums, it would be the band's only number one album during their brief time together. While the album proved to be popular with fans, Morrissey courted controversy over his politics with critiques over Margaret Thatcher and the Band Aid charity. Around the same time, the band were playing to sell-out clubs as audiences often joined them on stage. While the non-LP single Shakespeare's Sister and That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore would continue the band's streak of hit singles, they were still being a cult sensation during that year as they toured the U.K. and U.S. It was also around the same time Marr and Morrissey were writing new music for their third album as trouble was brewing both personally and professionally during that year.
While it's often regarded as the band's weakest studio release, Meat Is Murder is still a fine, well-crafted album from the Smiths. Thanks to two classic singles and several top-notch album cuts, it's an album that's still worth hearing for audiences new to the Smiths. Fans of the band often view it as some of their best work proving the band's sense of versatility. While it's not the band's best album, Meat Is Murder is still a fine album from the Smiths.
The Smiths Albums: The Smiths - Hatful of Hollow - The Queen is Dead - Louder Than Bombs - Strangeways, Here We Come
(C) thevoid99 2011