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

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