Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Cure-Seventeen Seconds (Deluxe Edition)

Following the release of Three Imaginary Boys and a subsequent tour with Siouxsie & the Banshees where vocalist/guitarist Robert Smith played guitar with the latter. The Cure were becoming one of the new bands of the burgeoning post-punk scene yet Smith’s fascination with Siouxsie & the Banshees along with the experience of making Three Imaginary Boys gave Smith new ideas as well as wanting more control. Following the departure of original bassist Michael Dempsey, Smith and drummer Lol Tolhurst formed a spin-off project with Dempsey, future guitarist Porl Thompson, and a local postman named Frank Bell.

The project also included keyboardist Matthieu Hartley and a bass player named Simon Gallup, the latter of which would become Smith’s right-hand man for nearly the entirety of the Cure’s career. Smith invited Gallup and Hartley to join the group as they would help shape the new sound Smith was yearning for the Cure. The sound would move away from post-punk and into a more atmospheric sound that is carried by Hartley’s synthesizers and Gallup’s hollow yet sturdy bass lines that would help define the Cure’s sound for years. The result of this new line-up would spawn the band’s second album Seventeen Seconds.

Written and performed by the Cure and produced by Robert Smith and Mike Hedges, Seventeen Seconds is an album where the Cure moves from the stripped-down sound of Three Imaginary Boys for a much broader yet ethereal approach. Featuring darker yet more vague lyrics from Smith, it also channeled a sound and production that goes beyond what is expected in a Goth-rock album. The result wouldn’t just be a superb sophomore album but also one of the early defining moments for the Cure.

Opening the album is the instrumental piece A Reflection, a two-minute and thirteen second track that is led by a somber piano and lush guitar strums that is later carried by a swooning sound of windy synthesizers to set the mood for the rest of the album. Play For Today arrives with its mid-tempo, walloping beats and later, a melodic bass line by Simon Gallup that is carried by ringing guitars and Matthieu Hartley’s swooning synthesizers. Robert Smith then sings with his calm, wailing vocals filled with snarling lyrics about heartbreak that is very direct in its approach. Secrets is another mid-tempo track with a bit more upbeat rhythms courtesy of Lol Tolhurt’s steady drums and Smith’s spurting guitars as he sings quietly with its melancholic yet abstract lyrics.

In Your House is a stark ballad that is led by loopy bass and guitar melodies with Tolhurst’s eerie, robotic drumming as it is carried by Hartley’s swirling keyboards. Smith then sings in his cool yet morose tone filled with dark imagery in the song’s lyrics as he goes into someone’s empty house. Three is another instrumental track led by a echo-laden piano, a hammering drum machine beat, and a swooning bass that is later followed by a soft, grinding guitar track as Smith sings in a distorted fashion. The Final Sound is a fifty-two second instrumental led by a stark piano melody that sounds a bit out of tune at times to complement its dreary tone. A Forest opens with swirls of brooding yet atmospheric synthesizers from Hartley that is carried by Smith’s melodic guitar ringing as it later becomes a full-on track with Tolhurt’s bopping, mid-tempo drumming and Gallup’s driving bass line. Smith then sings in his calm tone with lyrics about finding a girl that is lost in a forest.

M is led by a washy guitar riff to a bopping rhythm as he is carried by shimmering synthesizers to accompany his dreary vocals. Filled with lyrics that recall with heartbreak and angst, the song is one of the Cure’s finest album cuts as it includes Gallup’s throbbing bass line. At Night is a haunting ballad led by droning guitars and a thumping beat that is followed by Hartley’s swooning synthesizers. Smith sings chilling lyrics filled with stark imagery to describe his loneliness as it also includes a hollow bass to help intensify the mood. The album closer is its title track that is led by a slow yet steady drum beat and washy guitar track as the rhythm picks up a bit into a bopping, mid-tempo track that is carried by Gallup’s driving bass. Smith then sings in a stark vocal style to complement its numbing lyrics to help close the album.

The 2005 deluxe edition from Rhino and Fiction features the entire album in the first disc remastered by Robert Smith. Also in the deluxe edition is a second disc filled with demos, rare live tracks, and songs by the spin-off group Cult Hero.

Kicking things off with the second disc are the two songs from the sole single by Cult Hero with I’m A Cult Hero. Led by loopy bass lines, a steady upbeat drum track, swirling keyboard lines, and funky guitar tracks, the song is presented in a post-punk style as Frank Bell sings the song in a Cockney-like accent that is filled with quirky lyrics. The B-side Dig You is a bopping, mid-tempo track led by Gallup’s driving bass line and droning guitars by Smith and Porl Thompson as Bell sings with his calm yet snarling vocal to some punk-style lyrics. The next two tracks are home instrumental demos of the B-side Another Journey By Train and the album cut Secrets. Both are presented in rough forms with the former being a fast, punk-inspired track while the latter is a slower, mid-tempo track.

The next two tracks are live cuts from a show in Amsterdam on January of 1980 for the songs Seventeen Seconds and In Your House. Both songs are wonderfully mixed while Smith’s vocals are clear while the audience is heard but in a quieter mix. An alternate studio mix of the instrumental Three has Smith talking through while it’s mostly being played by a synthesizer with one note along with Smith’s wailing vocals. The next two tracks are live cuts for Cult Hero at a show at the Marquee Club in London on March of 1980 for its songs I Dig You and I’m A Cult Hero. The live versions are also mixed properly with some rough spots while the audience seems to really be into the performances. A live version of M from an undated 1980 performance that is presented in a excellent while a bit rough in a few spots.

The last five tracks on the second disc are from a live show in France on June of 1980. The performances for the tracks The Final Sound, A Reflection, Play for Today, At Night, and A Forest are presented in superb mixes with the first two being haunting yet atmospheric instrumentals. The rest have parts where some of the instruments sound a bit low while Smith’s vocal performance is truly amazing in the mix that is presented.

Released on April 18, 1980, the album drew mixed reviews from critics over the band’s new sound. Some praised the band for the change of direction while others were put off by the band’s darker sound. The record would later be considered to be one of the Cure’s finer moments in their early period of 1979-1982. Especially since it was the first record where the band would embrace the Goth sound that would define them. While the record was successful along with its accompanying tour, tension between Robert Smith and Matthieu Hartley over creative differences led to Hartley’s departure from the group forcing the band to become a trio again. Yet, Hartley’s contributions would help Smith expand his ideas for the band’s next album.

Seventeen Seconds is a brilliant sophomore release from the Cure that would mark the band’s transition from post-punk to Goth. With a more intoxicating yet atmospheric production by Robert Smith and Mike Hedges, it is the album that would help pave the way for upcoming early albums such as Faith and Pornography. Fans often see this as the best starting point of the band’s early career that led to their full progression into Goth rock. In the end, the Cure succeed with a haunting yet mesmerizing album with Seventeen Seconds.

© thevoid99 2011

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Cure-Three Imaginary Boys (Deluxe Edition)

Following the demise of punk in Britain in 1978 and 1979, a new musical movement in the form of post-punk has emerged. With this new sub-genre of music emerging and evolving, darker elements began to creep into the music with heavy bass lines and ominous lyrics being part of this new sound. One of the bands that would help bring this new sound to the masses were the Cure as they would eventually become the most successful band of the Goth music movement.

Formed in 1976 by Robert Smith as the Easy Cure with bassist Michael Dempsey and drummer Laurence “Lol” Tolhurst in Crawley, England. They started out as a post-punk band with another guitarist in Porl Thompson, who would join the Cure in 1984, as they re-named themselves the Cure as a trio. In 1978, they met Polydor Records scout Chris Parry who had formed his own label Fiction as the band signed a deal with Parry. The band released the single Killing An Arab in 1978 that got attention for its controversial title as the band was recording their debut album called Three Imaginary Boys.

Produced by Chris Parry with a lot of original songs written by Cure with the exception of a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s Foxy Lady. Three Imaginary Boys is an album that featured the Cure at their earliest formation as the band played a stark, stripped-down sound that was reminiscent of the post-punk music of the late 1970s. Featuring dark, somber lyrics by Robert Smith, the album would pre-date some of the darker yet atmospheric elements the Cure would bring to the music in the years to come. The result is a fascinating yet intriguing debut album the Cure.

Opening the album is one of the band’s famed songs in the single 10:15 Saturday Night that is led by stark, spurting guitar that is followed by melodic, wobbly bass line from Michael Dempsey as it builds up momentum for a bopping, mid-tempo rhythm that is driven by Lol Tolhurst’s drums and Smith’s washy guitar. With Smith’s soft, wailing vocals singing to some nocturnal-laden lyrics to set the mood for the entire album. Accuracy is a smooth, mid-tempo track with a steady drum fill from Tolhurst that is carried by spurting guitar washes from Smith and Dempsey’s sturdy bass lines. Smith sings dark lyrics that features eerie descriptive in its simple tone. Grinding Halt is a fast, upbeat track with swooning bass lines and bopping drums as Smith sings lyrics about a world where nothing exists as if everything has stopped that is carried by melodic guitar wash.

Another Day is a haunting yet somber track led by melodic guitar arpeggios that turns into a washy, mid-tempo track with smooth, walloping drums by Tolhurst. Smith sings in his wailing vocals as he sings about the mundane yet fascinating world of a day being unfolded. Object is a rocking track led by driving guitars and an intense rhythm that is carried by its sound as Smith wails through the song’s angry yet melancholic lyrics. Subway Song is a smooth, mid-tempo track led by spurting guitar and bass melodies that drive the track as Smith sings quietly with his eerie lyrics about a dark subway. Even as the song features Tolhurst’s soft’s cymbal taps and slow drum fills along with a harmonica wail to play up the dark tone of the song as it ends with a menacing sound. Next is a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s Foxy Lady sung by Michael Dempsey that acts as an outtake as the band presents in a punk-like fashion with fast guitars and drums.

Meathook is a smooth, mid-tempo track with swanky guitar tracks and loopy bass lines as Smith sings in a hollow vocal style with imagery-laden lyrics about losing a girl to a butcher. The song has a strange, dark sense of humor that would be prevalent for many of the Cure songs in the years to come. So What is a fast, upbeat track with driving guitars and bass lines with Tolhurst’s pulsating drums as Smith sings abstract lyrics filled with melancholia and satire. Fire in Cairo is another upbeat track with a bopping rhythm and wobbly bass line as Smith sings dark lyrics filled with heartbreak and chaos. It’s Not You is an up-tempo, guitar-driven track with sturdy bass lines and hammering drums as Smith sings angst-ridden lyrics with his snarling vocals.

The album’s title track is a slow, dream-like track with washy guitars and hollow drums as Smith sings haunting lyrics that describes a nightmare happening as it includes a wailing guitar solo. The last track on the album is a fifty-four second instrumental called The Weedy Burton that has the band playing something upbeat with melodic guitar spurts and wobbly bass lines that is followed by Tolhurst’s steady drum fills.

The 2004 deluxe edition of the album from Rhino and Fiction records features the original album in a newly-remastered presentation supervised by Robert Smith. Also in the album is a second disc filled with loads of material including demos, live rarities, outtakes, and three remastered songs from the U.S. version of Three Imaginary Boys called Boys Don’t Cry. The only two tracks that don’t appear in the second disc as part of the reissue is the B-side Plastic Passion that appears in the 2004 B-sides/rarities box-set Join the Dots. The other track is the single Killing An Arab that is still available on the 1986 singles-compilation album Standing on the Beach/Staring at the Sea. The reason Killing An Arab isn’t in the deluxe edition is due to the controversial nature of the song as Smith felt it was inappropriate to play it following the events of 9/11.

The first four tracks are demos and a live track that were recorded in late 1977 and January of 1978 that would feature future guitarist Porl Thompson in these recordings as the Easy Cure. The first is a demo of I Want to Be Old is a fast-paced song with punk-driven rhythms and guitar riffs as Smith sings in a snarling vocal. The second demo is for the B-side I’m Cold is another fast-paced track with Thompson’s wailing guitar and driving bass lines as Smith sings dark lyrics with an angry, melancholic tone. A live version of Heroin Face, from a show at Crawley in December of 1977, is presented in a scratchy sound with hollow bass lines and drums that includes driving guitar tracks as Smith sings in a snarling vocal style. The demo for I Just Need Myself is another fast-paced song with wailing guitars that is presented in a speedy-punk rock style as Smith sings in a fast-snarling vocal style with biting lyrics. Next is a homemade demo of 10:15 Saturday Night performed solely by Smith who sings and plays the song on a wailing keyboard with a guitar.

The next two tracks are group demos from early 1978 featuring Thompson as it shows the band’s progression from punk to post-punk. The first is The Cocktail Party as it is presented roughly with a bopping rhythm and Smith’s hollow vocals. The second is Grinding Halt as it’s also presented in a rough form that includes a wailing solo from Thompson early in the song. The next four tracks are demos recorded in May of 1978 at Chestnut studio as the tracks It’s Not You, Fire in Cairo, 10:15 Saturday Night, and Boys Don’t Cry as each song is presented in a clearer demo though the performances were still sketchy along with Smith’s high-pitch vocals. Yet, the Chestnut demos proved that there’s potential in the band as the performances are very lively in its rough state.

The next three tracks are studio outtakes recorded in October of 1978 of songs that were previously unreleased. The first is Winter, a somber mid-tempo track led by arpeggio-laden guitar chimes and a steady, swooning rhythm as Smith sings dream-like yet morose lyrics as it’s a wonderful rarity. Faded Smiles (aka I Don’t Know) is a fast-paced song with driving guitars and pulsating rhythms as Smith sings in a snarling vocal style with some intense yet biting lyrics. Play with Me is a mid-tempo yet upbeat track with swanky guitar and loopy rhythms as Smith sings strange yet abstract lyrics with his calm vocal presentation.

The next three tracks come from the U.S. version of Three Imaginary Boys entitled Boys Don’t Cry that features two of the band’s early singles. The first of the three tracks is the mid-tempo World War that is carried by a slow, steady rhythm and Smith’s snarling vocals as he sings with dark imagery about war itself with wonderful description. Boy’s Don’t Cry is a wonderfully upbeat song with melodic guitar wails and a steady, bopping rhythm as Smith sings in a calm vocal style that is surrounded by humorous yet melancholic lyrics about heartbreak. Jumping Someone Else’s Train is another upbeat track carried by Smith’s washy, swanky guitar spurts and fast-paced bass lines that is followed by swift, pulsating drum fills. Smith’s snarling yet fast-paced vocals drive the song along with its eerie yet abstract lyrics as it’s one of the band’s defining singles.

The last three tracks are live tracks recorded at Nottingham on October of 1979 as it includes Subway Song, Accuracy, and 10:15 Saturday Night as they’re each presented with a broader sound to showcase the more-realized live sound of the band. Particularly as the songs sound much better though they’re still rough in its mix.

Released on May 11, 1979, the album drew excellent reviews from critics in Britain while the U.S. version entitled Boys Don’t Cry came out in February of 1980 in America. Despite the acclaim the album received, Robert Smith wasn’t entirely happy with the record as he decided to have more control about the band along with its image and sound. A tour with Siouxsie & the Banshees were Smith also played guitar for the band gave Smith an idea to take the Cure’s sound to another level. This new change would lead to Michael Dempsey’s departure as he would be the first of many to leave the band.

Three Imaginary Boys is a superb debut album from the Cure as it showcased the band’s early post-punk sound that included lyrical ideas and elements that band would showcase in the years to come. Compared to the three albums that would follow the band later on, it’s the weakest of the four though it is an interesting album to see where the Cure started off and how they would later evolve. Even through the demos and rarities that is presented in the deluxe edition while the album in its remastered form is truly captivating for its sparse production and stripped-down performance. In the end, Three Imaginary Boys is a phenomenal debut album from the Cure.

© thevoid99 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Cure-4:13 Dream

Originally Written and Posted at on 10/27/08 w/ Additional Edits.

For nearly 30 years in the music scene, there has been no band that's revered or beloved in the alternative music scene than the Cure. Led by its singer/guitarist/lyricist Robert Smith, the Cure often had a revolving line-up with the exception of longtime bassist Simon Gallup who had been in the band since 1980 despite a break between 1982 and 1985 following the release of Pornography. Yet, the Cure strived on as they were considered to be one of the premier bands of the Goth music scene while crossing over to the pop charts. After a string of hit albums that included 1985's Head on the Door, 1987's Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, and 1989's much-beloved Disintegration. The Cure were considered one of alternative music's best bands while there were times that Robert Smith had threatened to end the band for good.

While 1992's Wish was a hit album that was followed by two live albums, the Cure went into a major line-up change when longtime guitarist Porl Thompson left to be part of a backing band for legendary Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant. Longtime drummer Boris Williams left the group in 1994 as Smith, Gallup, and guitarist Perry Bamonte were left as keyboardist Roger O'Donnell returned the band following his departure in 1990. Jason Cooper joined the Cure in 1995 after some auditions as it would be the Cure line-up for the next 10 years. After 2000's Bloodflowers that completed a trilogy followed by 1982's Pornography and Disintegration, the Cure seemed to be ready to call it quits. Instead, another greatest hits compilation was released a year later along with a box set of B-sides and rarities in 2004.

The band returned in 2004 with Korn producer Ross Robinson to create the band's self-titled release that received good reviews from fans and critics. A year later, Smith decided to go for another line-up change as he pared the Cure down to a trio of just him, Gallup, and Cooper. The trio toured as returning to the band was longtime guitarist Porl Thompson as the trio became a quartet for a series of festival tour dates. The tour proved to be a success as the quartet decided to return to the studio for what was originally going to be a double album. Instead, the result would become the band's thirteenth studio release entitled 4:13 Dream.

Produced by Robert Smith and Keith Uddin, 4:13 Dream is an album that returns the band to a more stripped-down sound of guitar, bass, and drums with bits of keyboards and loops played. Written and performed by Smith, Simon Gallup, Porl Thompson, and Jason Cooper. The album focuses more on swirling guitars than haunting keyboards as it features the band's trademark sound of dark lyrics, wobbly bass lines, and thrashing rhythms. While it doesn't reach the heights of past releases, 4:13 Dream is still an album that proves that the Cure still has some magic left in them.

The album opener Underneath The Stars is a song filled with slow but loud drums from Jason Cooper and drum machine loops with swirling, blazing guitars from Robert Smith and Porl Thompson along with melodic chimes and Simon Gallup's wobbly bass lines. With chimes flourishing in the background along with arpeggio guitar melodies, Smith starts to sing in his dreary, haunting vocals filled with dark, dream-like lyrics. With Smith's washy guitar and Thompson's arpeggio-laden guitar solo, the track sets the course for the album and its mood. The album's first single The Only One is an upbeat, bouncy track filled with all of the Cure's trademarks in arpeggio-laden riffs and wobbly bass lines as Cooper's drums help the song's momentum. Smith's vocals filled with desperation and yelps in its lyrics are wonderful as there's a nice hook to the vocals with piano-like melodies playing in the background for the song's chorus.

Reasons Why is a mid-tempo track with Gallup's bouncy bass lines, washy guitars, and a thumping rhythm as Thompson plays a blazing solo. With Smith's dream-like, dreary lyrics and cool, wail-like vocals, it's definitely an excellent album cut as Smith delves into his mix of dark lyrics with flourishing, pop-song structure presentation. The second single Freakshow is a bouncy, cowbell-driven track that doesn't totally work due to its presentation in its swanky, guitars and rhythms with Smith's snarling vocals and freaky lyrics. While it's not a disaster, this isn't one of the Cure's best singles because there's too much that goes on while the cowbell feels out of place in a song by the Cure. Sirensong is a soothing song filled with sliding guitar riffs, acoustic washes, and smooth rhythms. Smith's melancholic, despaired lyrics sung in his cool, dreary vocals is a highlight as it reveals that the band still can display great pop melodies in something that's simple.

Real Snow White is a snarling, mid-tempo song with Smith's mean, wailing vocals filled with dark lyrics as Cooper's warbling, mid-tempo beats and Gallup's low, rumbling bass line help accompany the blazing, swirling guitars of Smith and Thompson. With a rumbling chorus that is bouncy and filled with swirling guitars and Smith's cool vocal performance, it's another great track. Hungry Ghost is an upbeat, washy track with swift, rumbling beats and Smith's fast-paced, wailing vocals as he sings haunting lyrics with a shimmering guitar solo from Thompson during the chorus. Switch arrives with distorted, rhythmic drum machine beats and screeching guitars before it goes into a swift, mid-tempo track with Cooper's drums, Gallup's low bass lines, and charging guitars. Smith goes into his cool, wailing vocals as he sings despairing lyrics to the fast, screeching guitars that he and Thompson play.

The fourth single The Perfect Boy is a mid-tempo track that opens with an accompanying guitar with Smith singing about a boy who is everything that anyone can hope for. With its smooth, mid-tempo rhythm, blazing guitar washes, and wobbly bass lines, it's one of the band's finest singles with flourishing pianos, rumbling beats, and Smith's wailing vocals. This. Here and Now. With You is a smooth, mid-tempo track with Gallup's loopy bass, Cooper's thumping drums, flourishing keyboards, and arpeggio guitar swirls. With Smith's yelping vocals in the chorus filled with melancholic, dark lyrics, it's another great track that shows the band's unique take on song structures though the production is a bit polished early on. The album's third single Sleep When I'm Dead is a haunting track with sitar flourishes, washy guitars, and thumping, jerky rhythms with a bouncy bass line. Smith's dark, despairing lyrics along with his cool, engaging vocals.

Scream starts off with Smith singing softly with his dark lyrics as it turns into a rough, washy track with mid-tempo beats, grinding guitars, and Smith's low vocals. The song then begins to build momentum as it Smith goes into a scream for this mean, wailing track as it becomes a louder and more rumbling with Cooper's beats and Gallup's low bass line. The album closer It's Over is a rumbling, assaulting track led by Gallup's fierce bass line, Cooper's crashing, warbling, and the swirling guitars of Smith and Thompson. The song goes into a frenzy as it intensifies as Smith goes into his doomy lyrics with his yelping, growling vocals as he gets more engaging. With dual solos from Smith and Thompson on guitars, it's a fitting closer to the album.

While it's not as superior to some of the band's classic albums from the late 1980s, 4:13 Dream is still a noteworthy, sprawling, and adventurous album from the Cure. Despite a clunky single and some polishing in the album's production, the album is a still a good record from the Cure proving that they still got some magic left. Fans of the band will be glad that the Cure can bring out their doom rock to the world though it might not win over new fans just as a lot of new bands look to them as a big influence. In the end, 4:13 Dream is a stellar album from Robert Smith and company as the Cure continues to be one of the best bands out there.

(C) thevoid99 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Smiths-Strangeways, Here We Come

Originally Written and Posted at on 1/28/09.

After the release of the double-compilation album Louder Than Bombs in early 1987, the Smiths' commercial profile was risen three years after they released their first album. Already a band that's becoming popular with hit singles and albums, it seemed likely that great things were coming for them with help from major label EMI and their old indie label Rough Trade. However, not everything was great with the band as they faced the end while were preparing to record their fourth and final album.

Pressures from their labels intensified where in a recent rock documentary, guitarist Johnny Marr stated that the labels were wanting them to become the next U2. In Marr's own word, not everyone wanted to be U2. At the same time, the relationship between Johnny Marr and vocalist/lyricist Morrissey was becoming strained due to creative and personal differences. Recordings with producer Stephen Street in the spring of 1987 were problematic as Morrissey wanted to do more traditional style of pop music to Marr's dismay. In response, Marr would work with other acts and artists including the Talking Heads and Bryan Ferry. At the same time, business issues were hurting the band as they continued to record material including B-sides that would later appear in singles to come out for their fourth and final album entitled Strangeways, Here We Come.

Produced by Johnny Marr, Morrissey, and Stephen Street, Strangeways, Here We Come is a broader album filled with orchestral arrangements made by Johnny Marr's synthesizers with Morrissey providing lyrics that range from the personal to more dramatic narrative stories. With the rhythm section of drummer Mike Joyce and bassist Andy Rourke in tact, more experiments with drum machines by Stephen Street and a fuller sound in production would give the Smiths room to expand their simple sound. The result would be a graceful bow from one of Britain's great bands.

The album opens with A Rush And A Push And The Land Is Ours opens with 12-bar blues-based piano and Morrissey's atmospheric, choral-like vocal that becomes clear to the song's thumping rhythm provided by drummer Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke's wobbly bass. With a break of rapid percussion shakes and Morrissey's harrowing lyrics that are accompanied by Marr's melodic-flourish keyboards and piano tracks. The single I Started Something I Couldn't Finish is an upbeat song that features Marr's growling guitar washes meshed with chiming melodies, Joyce's pounding beats supplemented by Stephen Street's clapping drum programming, a horn section, and Rourke's thumping bass. With Morrissey's calm vocals and witty lyrics, it's one of the band's best singles that features a superb sound and Morrissey's unique sense of humor. Death Of A Disco Dancer is a haunting mid-tempo ballad led by Rourke's eerie bass line, Joyce's smooth, thumping beats, and warbling sounds from Marr's guitar and Morrissey's eerie vocals. With Morrissey providing morose lyrics and a coda that has him playing broken piano and shimmering, eerie arrangements led by Marr's guitar.

The single Girlfriend In A Coma features Rourke's twangy bass line, Joyce's smooth, thumping drums, and Morrissey's calm vocals about a man struggling with his comatose girlfriend wonder if she'll pull through as he's dealing with guilt. Featuring Marr's arpeggio, chime-laden guitars and striking string arrangement, it's a short but poignant song that is filled with Morrissey's superb lyrics and Marr's unique presentation. Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before is another classic track that was supposed to be a single but scrapped. The mid-tempo song with rumbling rhythms, Marr's jangly guitar washes, and Morrissey's soft but engaging vocals filled with witty lyrics about love and heartbreak. It's a song that features everything that made the Smiths so brilliant. Another single is the ballad Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me that opens with a somber piano track by Marr featuring people talking in the background. After nearly two minutes, the song becomes this haunting, mid-tempo ballad with thumping rhythms filled by Rourke's low bass rumbles, Joyce's pummeling beats, and Marr's arpeggio flourishes. With Morrissey's dramatic vocals filled with melancholic-laden lyrics, it's one of the band's most poignant ballads.

Unhappy Birthday is a smooth, upbeat track filled with bouncy rhythms led by Marr's washy guitar riffs and Morrissey's somber vocals filled with morose lyrics. The song features a unique song structure with moments of Joyce's rumbling drums and no drums as Marr brings in soft guitar slides in the background. Paint A Vulgar Picture is a foot-stomping track led by Joyce's bass drum beat and Marr's jangly guitar wash. Morrissey starts to sing calmly with lyrics that are truly direct towards the music industry with witty words and a snarl. Featuring Marr's superlative, ringing guitar solo in the song's bridge, it's a unique track that proves that Morrissey can have a sense of humor on something that he's angry about.

Death At One's Elbow opens with a motorcycle rumbling with clap-driven beats by Stephen Street before a fast, rapid rhythm led by Mike Joyce's drums, Andy Rourke's thumping bass, Marr's washy guitar jangles, and Morrissey's smooth, wailing vocals. With witty lyrics about death, it's a wonderful little number from the Smiths going to the style of old dance-hall rhythms and melodies. The album closer is I Won't Share You, an acoustic ballad led by Johnny Marr's mandolin washes and Morrissey's superb yet somber vocals filled with melancholic-driven lyrics. With its rich production and simple performance, it's a fitting closer for the album and the band.

Released in September of 1987, the album came out one month after guitarist Johnny Marr decided to leave the band. Marr's departure would eventually cause the Smiths to disband altogether as they released three singles before the end of the year featuring B-sides they recorded from the sessions for the album. The album itself would become a hit reaching number two in the U.K. charts and number 55 in the U.S. charts. Despite its success, it was a bittersweet moment for music fans as the Smiths helped save music for a brief period of time. At the same time as the production team of Stock, Aitken, and Waterman were creating hits that were ruling the charts. The Smiths did lay the ground work for the British indie revolution in the years to come as in 1989, another Manchester band in the Stone Roses would take indie music as far as it can go.

Following the Smiths' dissolution, Morrissey would embark on a successful solo career that has lasted for several years. While guitarist Johnny Marr embarked on several projects including Electronic with Joy Division/New Order guitarist Bernard Sumner and playing guitar for several acts including Modest Mouse. Hopes for a Smiths reunion still lingered but a 1996 court battle with drummer Mike Joyce over recording and performance royalties dampened those dreams. Joyce's victory against Morrissey and Johnny Marr only strained relations while Andy Rourke settled with Marr and Morrissey for some money that he was given. While best-of compilations released in 1992, 1995, 2000, and a recent 2008 one supervised by Marr and Morrissey helped their profile. Plans for a Smiths reunion seems impossible with Morrissey's solo career still thriving and Johnny Marr's music projects still doing well while Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce also embarked on different projects.

Strangeways, Here We Come is a superb, rich, and haunting album from the Smiths. While it doesn't reach the heights of The Queen Is Dead in terms of its production and songwriting stature, it's still an album that features some amazing work from the band. It's an album that truly has a feeling of an end while proving that the Smiths are going to go out with their head high. Thanks in large part to a few singles and album cuts that makes this record essential. In the end, Strangeways, Here We Come is a magnificent album from the Smiths.

(C) thevoid99 2011

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Smiths-Louder Than Bombs

Originally Written and Posted at on 1/27/09.

By late 1986 after the release of the band's third studio album The Queen Is Dead, the Smiths were truly the band young audiences counted as an alternative to the mainstream pop music scene in Britain. Despite some chart success with singles and albums, the Smiths were still considered underground heroes as their lack of commercial profile frustrated singer/lyricist Morrissey. In early 1987, Rough Trade and EMI released the compilation album The World Won't Listen that consisted of more rarities, B-sides, and non-LP singles. While the album was a hit with fans, the record was not released in the U.S. as they were a cult band in that country. The album would be released as an import prompting Rough Trade and EMI to compile an expanded version of The World Won't Listen with some changes for its U.S. audience through the band's U.S. label Sire Records. The album would be released in March of 1987 as Louder Than Bombs.

Louder Than Bombs is an album consisting of twenty-four tracks filled with non-LP singles, B-sides, radio session tracks, and other rarities. Expanding The World Won't Listen with a few alterations in terms of different versions of a couple of tracks. The album is meant to give fans the chance to hear rarities and B-sides they didn't have at the time. Especially U.S. fans as the record includes tracks from the Hatful of Hollow compilation that still wasn't out in the U.S. Filled with many highlights from the band including BBC radio sessions with John Peel from December of 1986 plus another Peel session that was heard previously from the Hatful of Hollow compilation. Louder Than Bombs is a superb, exciting compilation record from the Smiths.

The album opens with Is It Really So Strange?, a B-side track from the Sheila Takes A Bow single and from John Peel's December ‘86 session. The mid-tempo, bouncy track led by Johnny Marr's washy guitar track and thumping rhythms by drummer Mike Joyce and bassist Andy Rourke. With Morrissey's witty, sardonic lyrics and calm, wailing vocals, it's a great opener to reveal the gems the band has. The non-LP single Sheila Takes A Bow is another upbeat song with a blaring horn intro and thrashing guitar track that becomes this smooth yet powerful song with Joyce's hard-pounding drums and Rourke's growling guitar accompaniment. With Morrissey's melancholic yet direct lyrics and engaging vocals, it's one of the band's great singles proving the band's sense of prowess while remaining simple which includes a guitar slide in the background by John Porter. Another great non-LP single Shoplifters Of The World Unite features a smooth, chug-like rhythm from Marr's guitar and the rhythm section of Joyce and Rourke. With Morrissey's calm vocals and very political-driven lyrics that are very poignant. Featuring a wailing solo from Marr near the coda, it's one of the band's best cuts.

Sweet And Tender Hooligan, a B-side from Sheila Takes A Bow and from the Peel December ‘86 session, opens with Marr's shimmering guitar note before going into this fast, pounding track with rumbling, rapid drums by Joyce and Marr's jangly, washy guitar track. With Morrissey singing fast, sardonic lyrics filled with angst along with direct vocals, it's the band being a bit primal in their sound while keeping true to their sound. Half A Person, a B-side for Shoplifters Of The World Unite, is a ballad with smooth, thumping rhythms and Craig Gannon's washy acoustic guitar accompaniment along with Marr's electric guitar arpeggio flourishes. Morrissey's soft, elegant vocals filled with melancholia is a poignant song filled with very personal lyrics that prove his brilliance as a lyricist. London, another B-side from Shoplifters Of The World Unite, is a rollicking, punk-inspired track with hard-pounding beats and crunching guitar riffs from Marr and Gannon along with Rourke's wobbly bass fuzz. With Morrissey getting a bit confrontational in his vocals with descriptive lyrics about the city, it's a great B-side showing the band delving into their punk influences with help from Stephen Street's mix on the drums.

The non-LP single Panic with Craig Gannon on rhythm guitar, is a rich, upbeat song filled with Marr's intricate, arpeggio flourishes that opens the song with Joyce's pounding drums and Morrissey's angry, dramatic vocals. With his wailing, near-operatic vocals, Morrissey sings a verse about the music that is being played that says nothing to him while wanting to burn down the disco and hang the DJ. Girl Afraid, a B-side for Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now that also appeared in Hatful of Hollow, is a rich, upbeat track with bouncy rhythms and Marr's jangly, intricate arpeggio melodies that complements Morrissey's calm, melancholic vocals filled with morose lyrics. The non-LP single Shakespeare's Sister is a fast, rollicking track led by Joyce's rapid drumming and Marr's washy, slithering guitar tracks. With Morrissey singing through a hollow mix, it's one of the band's key singles filled with a blues-bar based rollicking rhythm and Morrissey's dramatic lyrics. The single William, It Was Really Nothing from Hatful of Hollow appears with its swift rhythm, Marr's rich, arpeggio guitar flourishes, and Morrissey's morose lyrics.

Next is a remix of an aborted single entitled You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby, a mid-tempo song that features bouncy rhythms from Joyce and Rourke's low bass line along with Marr's rich, arpeggio guitar melodies. With Morrissey's calm, glorious vocals that sings along to the song's somber lyrics, it's a great song that shows a gem unearthed by the band. The non-LP single Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now from Hatful of Hollow, is one of the band's rich singles with Marr's flourishing guitar chimes, Morrissey's melacholic lyrics and dramatic vocals, and a smooth, thumping rhythm from Joyce and Rourke. The non-LP single Ask appears in a remixed form than in its original single features Craig Gannon on rhythm guitar and backing vocals from Kirsty MacColl. With its upbeat rhythms, washy acoustic guitar riffs, and Morrissey's somber vocals filled with morose, lonely lyrics that includes MacColl singing along in the latter-half of the chorus. With Marr's rich arpeggio guitars in the background, it's one of the band's key singles.

The B-side for Ask is a cover of Twinkle's Golden Lights that also features Gannon and MacColl with John Porter providing drum machine tracks in the background. With a haunting, shimmering intro that accompanies MacColl's vocals with soft, sputtering drum machines and Marr's intricate guitar. With Morrissey and MacColl singing along with a warbled vocal mix and Marr's rich guitar along with Rourke's wobbly bass and Joyce's tapping drums. Oscillate Wildly is a B-side for How Soon Is Now? that is essentially an instrumental track with a piano melody that opens the track with Joyce's tapping drums, Rourke's warbling bass, and Marr's washy guitar track. Then it becomes this thumping track with Joyce's snare beats and Marr's washy guitar chimes that is followed by spurting keyboard melodies. These Things Take Time is an upbeat track that is a B-side for What Difference Does It Make? and appeared from Hatful of Hollow. With its rich, intricate guitar work from Johnny Marr, thumping rhythms, and Morrissey's low-wailing vocals and direct lyrics, it's another of the band's great B-sides.

Rubber Ring, a B-side for The Boy With A Thorn In His Side, features swanky guitar riffs from Marr and Rourke's wobbly bass line. With Joyce's smooth, thumping drums joining in, Morrissey sings witty, sardonic lyrics filled with melancholic references to great songs of the past. With Marr's flourishing chimes in the background, it's another fantastic song from the band featuring voices talking in the coda. Back To The Old House, a B-side for What Difference Does It Make? that also appeared from Hatful of Hollow, is a rich ballad led by Marr's rich guitar melodies and Morrissey's somber vocals filled with melancholic lyrics. Another track that appeared from Hatful of Hollow is the single version of Hand In Glove, the band's first single that defined the Smiths' sound. An alternate version of Stretch Out And Wait, a B-side for Shakespeare's Sister, is an acoustic ballad featuring Marr's rich, washy guitar, soft tapping rhythms, and Morrissey's somber vocals filled with melancholic-laden lyrics. The song's presentation reveals the band's brilliance in its simplicity and approach to ballads that often revels in Morrissey's amazing vocals.

Two tracks from Hatful of Hollow appear next, first is the acoustic ballad Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want that is a B-side for William, It Was Really Nothing. The second is This Night Has Opened My Eyes from the September ‘83 John Peel session, the haunting song featuring Marr's spurting guitars, smooth, thumping rhythms, and Morrissey's hollow vocals filled with eerie lyrics. Unloveable, a B-side for Bigmouth Strikes Again, is a ballad led by Marr's washy, jangly guitar, thumping rhythms, and Morrissey's soothing vocals. Filled with morose, somber lyrics, it's another fascinating B-side that features Morrissey's superb vocals and Marr's rich guitar work along with a soft cowbell in the background. The album closer is Asleep, a B-side for The Boy With A Thorn In His Side, is another ballad led by Marr's somber piano playing to Morrissey's brilliant vocals filled with soothing, sad lyrics about death. A simple piano ballad with just Marr and Morrissey, it's a fitting closer to the album.

Five tracks that appear in the U.K. compilation record The World Won't Listen are two single versions for That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore and The Boy With The Thorn On His Side plus an alternate mix of You Just Haven't Earned It, Baby and an alternate version of Stretch Out And Wait with different opening lyrics and an alternate vocal mix. Another exclusive track that appeared in cassette versions of that album is a song called Money Changes Everything. An instrumental track with thumping, twangy rhythms led by Rourke's bass and Marr's swanky guitar, and synthesized strings to explore the band's versatile music styles. When Louder Than Bombs was released on March 1987 in the U.S., the record came out two months later in the U.K. to great success. For the Smiths, it helped raise their profile to the mainstream as they were set to make their fourth album. Yet, rising tension between Morrissey and Johnny Marr along with pressures from EMI to make another hit album that would get the band bigger would only mark the beginning of the end for the Smiths.

Louder Than Bombs is a brilliant, sprawling compilation album from the Smiths. While the album contains many B-sides, non-LP singles, and rarities that fans would love, it's incomplete due to the material that didn't make it from The World Won't Listen plus tracks that already appeared from Hatful of Hollow. While the record is essential for fans of the Smiths, it's an album that shows the band's brilliance with their B-sides and singles proving that there's a lot of gems that don't appear in their studio albums. In the end, Louder Than Bombs is a superb album that fills all of the need for great music from the Smiths.

(C) thevoid99 2011

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Smiths-The Queen is Dead

Originally Written and Posted at on 1/25/09.

Following the release of Meat Is Murder, the Smiths were clearly one of Britain's rising bands with two studio albums and a compilation of rarities to help them. Along with non-LP singles, the Smiths were becoming a big touring band playing to sellout clubs where fans often would join them on stage. After a tour that had the band play to U.S. audiences, the band returned to the studio in the late summer of 1985 to record their third album with their longtime engineer Stephen Street. While guitarist Johnny Marr was dealing with exhaustion over the recording and touring schedule, the band was having some problems with their label Rough Trade. Despite the creative freedom the label gave the band, business issues hampered the relationship that would lead the band to eventually sign with EMI much to the dismay of some fans. Around the same time, Rough Trade delayed the new album for months after it was finished in the fall of 1985.

In September 1985, the band released a rough mix of their new single entitled The Boy With The Thorn His Side that would garner the band another hit. In early 1986, bassist Andy Rourke was briefly fired from the band due to his heroin use as he was replaced by former Aztec Camera guitarist Craig Gannon. When Rourke was decided to be brought back with Gannon as a rhythm guitarist, the band briefly became a five-piece where in May 1986, the band released the single Bigmouth Strikes Again that would cause anticipation for the release of the Smiths' third album entitled The Queen Is Dead.

Written and produced by Morrissey and Johnny Marr with engineering work from Stephen Street with the exception of one song engineered by John Porter. The Queen Is Dead is an album that expands the Smiths sound with broader arrangements, acoustic flourishes, varied styles like punk, rockabilly, British Invasion, and the band's rich jangle-pop sound. Along with the use of synthesized string arrangements by Johnny Marr, vocalist Morrissey takes on new lyrical territory ranging from the interpersonal to more angrier lyrics directed at critics, bosses, and other figures. The result isn't just the band's best album but also one of the best albums of the 1980s.

The album opens with the title track that features an intro of Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty from Bryan Forbes' 1962 film The L-Shaped Room where people are singing the song. The track fades into a rapid, rumbling drum performance from Mike Joyce that is intense and pummeling as it goes into a full track of Andy Rourke's driving bass line, Johnny Marr's chugging guitar riffs, and Morrissey's calm, engaging vocals. Filled with angst-ridden lyrics, the song is a powerful song that expands the Smiths sound with Marr's warbling guitar washes with a production that is more crisp and layered than in previous albums. Frankly Mr. Shankly is a smooth, bouncy track with Rourke's wobbly bass line and Marr's spurting semi-acoustic guitar washes. With Morrissey's quirky, witty lyrics, the song goes into a bouncy mid-tempo track thanks in part to Mike Joyce's pounding drums. With Morrissey's wailing vocals and Marr's driving guitar.

I Know It's Over is a ballad led by Morrissey's haunting yet dramatic vocals filled with melancholic lyrics and a slow accompanying rhythm from Joyce and Rourke with Marr's smooth acoustic guitar washes. With Joyce playing tapping beats for the verse and a more traditional drum accompaniment on the chorus along with Marr's rich, arpeggio-laden guitar melodies, it reveals the unique approach the band takes towards song structure. Never Had No One Ever is a slow yet mid-tempo track with Joyce's pulsating drums, Rourke's low bass rumbles, and Marr's washy guitar riffs with chiming melodies. Morrissey's vocals are dramatic in its melancholia as he sings lyrics filled with despair and angst. With Morrissey's wailing, operatic-style vocals and Marr's haunting keyboard accompaniment, it's a track that displays the band's unique sound taken into new heights.

Cemetery Gates is a smooth, upbeat track with Joyce's swift, pulsating track and hi-hat cymbal taps along with Rourke's rockabilly-style bass lines. With Marr's washy, arpeggio-laden guitar tracks accompanying Morrissey's calm, engaging vocals. The song's lyrics filled with subtle attacks on critics revealed his wit and humor as Marr's guitar and the band's rhythm provide a soothing accompaniment. Bigmouth Strikes Again is an upbeat track with swift, rapid rhythms and Marr's opening acoustic guitar washes. With Morrissey's calm, superb vocals leading the track, the song's lyrics are filled with wit and direct references over a character's comments. With Marr's intricate, apreggio-chime driven flourishes, the song features Morrissey singing in a high-pitch backing vocal as it's one of the band's best singles.

Another single, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side is a mid-tempo track led by Marr's washy acoustic guitar track filled with his electric, chime-laden flourishes and a thumping rhythm from Joyce and Rourke. With Morrissey's calm, wailing vocals, the song is filled with melancholic lyrics that are filled with despair and angst making it one of the band's most poignant singles. Most notably, Johnny Marr's rich guitar solo filled with intricate, melodic arpeggio riffs as the album version contains a background of synthesized string arrangements. Vicar In A Tutu is a rollicking, thumping track with bouncy rhythms, Marr's arpeggio-laden guitar melodies meshed with rockabilly riffs, and Morrissey's witty, humorous lyrics. With Joyce and Rourke providing a thumping, rockabilly style rhythm to the track, it's a song that works to maintain the Smith's sound in a different style while emphasizing on Morrissey's sense of humor.

The ballad There Is A Light That Never Goes Out is one of the band's most majestic songs with its soothing, mid-tempo rhythm, Marr's somber guitar washes, and Morrissey's calm yet enchanting vocals. Filled with lyrics about longing and loneliness, it's one of Morrissey's poignant moments due to its lyrics and an amazing arrangement of synthesized string by Marr to accompany the song in its chorus and coda. The album closer Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others fades in and out with Marr's intricate, melodic guitar flourishes and thumping rhythms from Joyce's drums and Rourke's wobbly bass track. With Morrissey's soothing, wailing vocals and melancholic lyrics filled with imagery-laden description, it's a fitting closer to the album that ends with a flourishing yet somber instrumental coda.

Released in June 1986, the album would become the Smiths most acclaimed album to date while reaching number 2 in the U.K. charts. In the U.S., the album peaked at 70 while being a hit record in the underground and college rock music scenes. Despite its success and acclaim, the Smiths forged on with non-LP hit singles as they were briefly a five-piece until October 1986 when Craig Gannon left the band. While the band would sign with EMI, the new deal would give the band the chance to be exposed to wider audiences in the months to come.

The Queen Is Dead is an elegant, superb, and brilliant masterpiece from the Smiths. Thanks to a layered and crisp production by Morrissey and Johnny Marr with help from Stephen Street and John Porter. It's album that is filled amazing songs carried by three classic singles and album cuts that are truly brilliant. Of the band's studio albums, this is the band's best album as it's an album that has a great flow of songs from start to finish. A sound that is broad yet simple and featuring some of Morrissey's best lyrics. In the end, The Queen Is Dead is truly the Smiths' greatest achievement.

(C) thevoid99 2011

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Smiths-Meat is Murder

Originally Written and Posted at 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.

(C) thevoid99 2011

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Smiths-Hatful of Hollow

Originally Written and Posted at 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.

(C) thevoid99 2011

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Smiths-S/T

Originally Written and Posted at on 1/21/09.

In the early 1980s, British music had just entered a new phase following the demise of punk. With post-punk and Goth still entrenched in the underground and heavy metal still gaining a following outside of the mainstream. Pop music in Britain was being dominated by a slew of synthesizer-driven pop bands and major label artists that were wearing slick clothes, weird hairdos, and singing songs that didn't really mean much to people. Particularly for those who weren't living in London and couldn't relate to people like Phil Collins and Tina Turner as guitar-driven music fell by the wayside due to synthesizers and leftover 70s rock. In 1984, all of that would change in pop music by four young men from Manchester who would start a revolution of British indie music that would provide British fans a new alternative. That band were simply known as the Smiths.

Formed in 1982, the band consisted of vocalist Steven Patrick Morrissey, guitarist John Maher, bassist Andy Rourke, and drummer Mike Joyce. The band chose the name the Smiths as a reaction towards the pompous names of several acts at the time like Spandau Ballet with Morrissey performing in his surname while John Maher changed his name to Johnny Marr to avoid confusion with the Buzzcocks drummer of the same name. In 1983, the band signed with the independent label Rough Trade records were they recorded sessions with Troy Tate that didn't prove good results as it would later be a popular bootleg. After finding a proper producer in John Porter, the Smiths would finally record and release their seminal self-titled debut in February of 1984.

Produced by John Porter and the Smiths, the band's self-titled debut is an album filled with melodic, jangly, and witty music that would define the British indie music scene in the years to come. With songs written by Morrissey and Johnny Marr, the album is filled with simplistic, layered songs with abstract yet melancholic lyrics about alienation, identity, and oppression from Morrissey's unique point of view in his wailing, engaging vocals. Along with Johnny Marr's intricate guitar playing with a 12-string semi-acoustic guitar, Andy Rourke's melodic bass accompaniment, and Mike Joyce's smooth, thundering, precision-approach drumming. The Smiths' self-titled debut would be one of the great debut albums that would begin a fantastic period for British indie music.

The album opens with Reel Around The Fountain that begins with a smooth, mid-tempo rhythm from Mike Joyce's drums and Andy Rourke's slow bass accompaniment. With Morrissey leading the away with his smooth, tenor vocals and Johnny Marr's rich, arpeggio, melodic guitar. With Joyce's smooth rumbling on the drums, Morrissey's harrowing lyrics of nostalgia and despair, and Marr's guitar driving the song that features Paul Carrack's soft piano and organ accompaniment. It's a fitting opener that provides the template of who the Smiths are. You've Got Everything Now is an upbeat, swanky track led by the bouncy rhythms of Joyce's drums and Rourke's loopy bass lines. With Marr leading with his washy, jangly guitars, Morrissey sings the song with his melancholic tenor and dramatic lyrics to match its dreary tone. With Morrissey singing some falsetto vocal notes on some parts of the song, it's the bouncy rhythm and Marr's swanky guitar washes that provide the song's rich sound.

Miserable Lie is a mid-tempo song with a smooth, thumping rhythm and Marr's intricate, arpeggio-laden guitar work. With Morrissey singing in a bass-like tenor, detached vocal style, it starts off slow before going into a swift, upbeat presentation with its fast, precise drums and Marr's washy guitars as Morrissey continues to sing. With its dark, dramatic lyrics, Morrissey sings in various styles while going into a falsetto style that features Marr's ringing, chime-like guitar flourishes. Pretty Girls Make Graves is a loopy, mid-tempo track with Morrissey's calm, smooth vocals as he sings dark lyrics filled with humor and imagery. With its bouncy rhythm featuring rumbling breaks from Joyce and Marr's washy, jangly guitar melodies driving the song, it's a standout cut from the album. The Hand That Rocks The Cradle is another mid-tempo number led by Marr's ringing arpeggio guitar melodies and a bouncy rhythm led by Joyce's thumping drums and Rourke's loopy bass lines. With Morrissey singing in a smooth, tenor-like vocal, he sings lyrics that are filled with descriptive lyrics of despair as its rhythm and Marr's guitar continues to maintain the song's dark tone.

The single This Charming Man is an upbeat, bouncy song with thumping rhythms from Joyce's drums, Rourke's warbling bass lines, and Marr's intricate, melodic, arpeggio flourishes. With Morrissey singing lyrics filled with wit and melancholia, his vocals shine in its dramatic style. With Marr's guitar leading the track along with Morrissey's vocals and lyrics, it's truly one of the band's high moments as the song is a bonus track in the record. Still Ill is another upbeat song that opens with chugging rhythms and Marr's scratchy guitar that later becomes a rich, arpeggio-laden accompaniment to Morrissey's smooth, wailing vocals as he sings dramatic yet poignant lyrics. With Marr's guitar playing being a highlight for its accompaniment and richness, it serves as a nice complement to Morrissey's vocal that is given full support by the bouncy rhythm of Joyce and Rourke. The album's first single Hand In Glove appears in a more polished, remixed version than its original single version. With Marr's ringing, chime-laden guitar melodies, thumping rhythms, and Morrissey's witty, ambiguous lyrics about love. It's one of the band's key moments as it defines the unique sound of the Smiths.

The third single What Difference Does It Make? is a mid-tempo song led by Marr's ringing guitar melodies that drives the song along with Joyce's hard-hitting snare drums and Morrissey's detached, eerie vocals filled with dark, engaging lyrics. With its smooth, mid-tempo thumping rhythms, it's another classic song from the band that is led by Morrissey's vocals and the jangly guitar work of Johnny Marr. I Don't Owe You Anything is a smooth track with a slow, thumping rhythm led by Joyce's drums and Rourke's melodic bass. With Marr's swanky wash and rich, arpeggio guitar melodies, Morrissey sings in a smooth, calm vocal with dramatic, witty lyrics. Featuring a soft, keyboard accompaniment from Paul Carrack, it's another song that works to show the band's range in performance. The album closer Suffer Little Children is a smooth, haunting track with melodic bass lines, tapping beats, and Marr's ringing, jangly guitar melodies. With Morrissey singing dark lyrics about murders with a calm, restrained vocal that prove to be soothing. Despite the song's dark subject matter and rich, unique presentation with its slow but steady rhythms along with Marr's rich guitar playing. It's a fitting closer to the band's debut album.

When the album came out in early 1984, it would prove to be an influential record in its release. With hit singles for This Charming Man, What Difference Does It Make?, and the non-LP singles Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now and William, It Was Really Nothing that featured the song How Soon Is Now?. The band's debut record would be a hit in the world of the British underground scene with legendary radio DJ John Peel championing the band. It would start a great period for the Smiths where in the years to come, they would become the band fans of non-mainstream music could count on as their debut would later prove to be influential in the years ahead.

The Smiths' self-titled debut is a brilliant debut record from the band. With its classic singles and several album cuts that proved to just as good as those early hit singles. It's a record that is a must-have for fans of the legendary band while those new to the Smiths and wanting to avoid best-of compilations should find this as a nice place to start. This is a record that reveals where the British indie sound really kind of started that would prove to be influential in the 1990s while exemplifying the dramatic style of Morrissey that would also prove to be influential with several of today's indie and, to a lesser degree, emo bands. In the end, the Smiths' debut record is a great debut album that would be the start of something great from the legendary band.

(C) thevoid99 2011