Almost 30 years ago (February, 1984), The Smiths released their debut album on the credible Rough Trade label. The album was preceded by two singles and the band were clearly on the rise and a total breath of fresh air. I can recall John Peel saying of The Smiths in their early days on air that ‘like The Doors or Hendrix this was a sound that just hadn’t been heard before’.
For a generation that missed Punk and didn’t really get Duran Duran, The Smiths were a band to cherish. Unique, at times outspoken and more importantly making some very exciting sounds that went on to re-boot the 80’s alternative music scene.
On reflection the bands debut album really is a missed opportunity to be one of the best debut albums of all-time. The production is at times very boggy and holds The Smiths down very unfairly. For a band that, in the real world, were rocketing the album is like a weight pulling them down. In an ideal world the band would have waited for the album to be right but money and the pressure to get an album out must have been key factors back in early ’84.
This does not stop Reel Around The Fountain totally putting the listener under a weighty spell. Those lyrics, that feel. It’s a remarkable song but probably not the best song to kick off a debut album with? You’ve Got Everything Now displays that uneven production. Again the song is fantastic but the sound should glide out of your speakers instead of crawl out.
Miserable Lie rattles with that ‘new’ Indie sound The Smiths would effectively dominate for their entire existence. As Marr touches many genres with beautiful guitar licks Morrissey lets lose howls that make ones neck hairs flex. Pretty Girls Make Graves and The Hand That Rocks The Cradle both suffer from poor production. Dream like interludes recall John McGeoch and Marr is in a league of his own.
Still Ill, Hand In Glove and What Difference Does It Make? are amongst the best songs The Smiths ever wrote. Criminally again John Porter’s production somehow holds these versions back. It makes one wonder who let the album be released like this. I Don’t Owe You Anything is an often looked over Smiths song. If it had a cleaner sound, it would be another classic.
Suffer Little Children is in some ways the albums masterstroke. It’s controversial theme and very dark feel sends sheer chills to the listener. This is not The Smiths courting controversy but probably their real feelings about the Moors murders that a child growing up in Manchester may have experienced. The name checking lyrically and the tapes that fade the song out hit a dark spot most songs cannot get near, from any genre.
The Smiths – The Smiths hit Number 2 in the U.K album chart. A success one might say but an awful missed opportunity to be the absolute classic it should have been…