Personally I believe this is the most deeply affecting work to come from the magnificent oeuvre of this genre-defining band. While ‘Strangeways’ and ‘The Queen is Dead’ may have received the critical plaudits, this is The Smiths at their viscerally heart-rending best. Morrissey’s words are an intimate manifestation of a tortured soul, an intensely ‘shy’ and private man baring all- not many lyricists could sing with the conviction that Moz does on tracks such as ‘Headmaster Ritual’ or ‘That joke isn’t funny any more.’
Themes such as love, teenage-angst and death are all touched on here; hardly original but approached in such a delicate and insightful way that they are impossible not to relate to. Layered over Johnny Marrs flawless musicianship (who wouldn’t recognize the timeless melodies found in ‘How soon is Now?) ‘Meat is murder’ is certainly difficult to fault.
What is also important to remember is the context of this album- The Smiths were unique. With the benefit of retrospect and knowledge of more recent acts the music here is nothing astonishingly innovative, but at the time Morrissey, Marr and co were genuinely exceptional- at the vanguard, with a few other select bands such as Joy Division, of a genre we now all take for granted as ‘Indie.’ ‘Meat is Murder’ was literally paving the way for bands such as ‘the Stone Roses’ and their ilk.
This is an album that may not immediately obvious to the casual music enthusiast, but with perseverance ‘Meat is Murder’ is both evocative and engaging- it is a truly rewarding listen, from a truly great band.