Today we feature one of the towering artists of the darker new-wave sound of the 1980s, The Smiths and their third album, “The Queen is Dead”. I have always looked at The Smiths as an entity that is almost entirely the creation and representation of their singer Morrissey, and while he is the face of the band, much more credit is also deserved for guitarist Johnny Marr, who wrote all of the music that accompanies Morrissey’s lyrics and vocals. The rush of sounds and melody are notable on this record, and the resulting beauty is an album that is a great listen, much better than I expected, and is rated #113 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Up until now, I have always honed in on “How Soon Is Now” as my favorite song by The Smiths, and I was not as familiar with much of anything beyond that song, which is not on “The Queen Is Dead”. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the vibrant drive many of these songs had, and my two favorite tracks are probably the two most cheery and warm tracks, coming from an artist who is not frequently associated with either of those adjectives. The overall production of the record is crisp and tight, and it really jumps out of my sound system.
The title track opens the record, as a pub sing-along fades into a driving rocker that features not only Marr on guitar, but a very solid rhythm section that is really good rock within the orchestral glow of their larger sound. “Frankly, Mr. Shankly” is an upbeat, if somewhat cynical song that is another appealing track. “I Know It’s Over” is a haunting song of sadness that is Morrissey at his best.
My two favorite tracks are the happy-ish songs “Cemetry Gates” (no, that isn’t a spelling error) and “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side”. Both highlight Marr on an acoustic guitar, with bright chordal progressions and sunny vocal arrangements. I never thought I would add The Smiths to a playlist of happy songs, but these two would definitely make that cut.
I truly enjoyed the entire record, and like many of these albums that I did not embrace when they were released, they make me wish I had expanded my musical aperture much earlier, and I would have loved seeing this band live at their powerful peak.