17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 12 July 2000
I bought this on vinyl on the day of its release, way back then. I rate it highly enough to buy it again on cd. The group split about two weeks after this was released, and a south bank show special which I still have on vhs brings home just how good they really were. "Paint a vulgar picture" hints that they knew the end was near and berates the compilations which were all that was released after this album. Perhaps it is a measure of how much people wanted more from the smiths that the best of takes two cds, and there is a singles album too. But this is the last real album and up there with the best. Morrisey evens plays piano on it. "I wont share you" features a sublime mandolin performance from Marr, with a harmonica fade that leaves you wishing there was more. The final irony is that EMI signed them only a few weeks before so they got two artists for the price of one. "Death of a disco dancer","rush and a push","I started something", all good tracks. Who knows what might have been."Stop me if you think youve heard this one before" is as cheeky and knowing as the title suggests. Enjoy
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 5 April 2003
I still remember the day I first heard the Smiths. It was 1987, I was a 12 year old kid and I heard Girlfriend in a Coma on a local radio station. As soon as I heard the song I fell in love with the Smiths and my interest in music and pop culture began. Girlfriend in a Coma was one of The Smiths' more insubstanstial offerings but it is a pop classic nevertheless. Now, as a world weary 28 year old, the only thing I have in common with the 12 year old kid I used to be is my passionate love of the Smiths and of this album.
For me this is my favourite Smiths album. I know that The Queen is Dead is the rock critics' favourite but my heart belongs to Strangeways. Morrissey's voice is at its best here and ranges from grunts, yelps and moans to sweet crooning. His lyrics are playful, sick, witty and heartbreakingly moving. Standout tracks are the sinister Death of a Disco Dancer, the aforementioned Girlfriend in a Coma (Morrissey's answer to "Leader of the Pack"), Paint a Vulgar Picture and the sublime I Won't Share You. Morrissey's lyrical and vocal genius is equalled by Marr, Joyce and Rourke's music. I still listen to the album regularly and in 15 years of record buying I have yet to find anything to better it and few to equal it.
If you have any interest in pop or guitar music you simply owe it to yourself to buy this album, it is a true, shimmering, wonderful work of art and your life will be immeasureably enriched by experiencing it!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 30 August 2010
The final Smiths studio LP, and it's pretty glorious. The preceding The Queen Is Dead gets all the attention, but 'Strangeways, Here We Come' is anything but a letdown. It finds all members of the band stretching out a little and flexing their talents; there are some interesting guitar motifs from Johnny Marr that aren't particularly traceable to the prior Smiths "sound," and similarly Morrissey's voice has gained in depth and richness through age and experience.
It's thoroughly consistent and cohesive. At just 36 minutes, it never outstays its welcome but the songs are long and expansive enough to make their mark. The opening "A Rush and a Push and the Land is Ours" is like a weird sort of melancholy ska, full of reverbed piano, while "I Started Something I Couldn't Finish" ratchets up the pop quotient with a slightly harder-edged flair.
"Death of a Disco Dancer" is the kind of dreamy, pseudo-psychedelic Nico-meets-Siouxsie and the Banshees (with a side order of Beatles' White Album - The Beatles thrown in) epic that foreshadows some of Morrissey's solo work, and does it marvellously well, with a particularly floating, airy vocal from the man himself. "Girlfriend in a Coma" is one of the most perfect two minutes in the entire Smiths catalogue, featuring all the elements that make a classic alternative pop single - a heart-stoppingly gorgeous melody married to an inventive, imaginative arrangement shining the spotlight on Marr's deft guitar, with one of Morrissey's most accessible, smooth vocals and witty, cuttingly humorous lyrics.
"Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before" recalls the harder-edged pop sound of the preceding "I Started Something I Couldn't Finish," but this time the melody is more immediately attractive. One of Morrissey's most admirable talents was matching the syllabics of his lyrics supremely to the rhythms of Joyce and Rourke's interplay and Marr's jangly melodies; this particular song is a prime example of the skill. (See the "delayed/waylaid" and "detained/restrained" lines, for instance.) Vocally, Morrissey shines throughout this record - the clarity with which he sings "who said I lied, because I never?" is wonderful. Later on, on the acoustic delight "Unhappy Birthday," which Johnny Marr later said was a direction he would have liked to have taken The Smiths in had they continued in band form, the vocal is a confident and assured croon that Morrissey would perfect in his solo career.
Perhaps the album's most famous song, and arguably its centrepiece, is the bewitching and melodramatic "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me." Reading the lyrics off the page, it's hard not to be won over by Morrissey's peerless treading of the fine line between wallowing and fabulously witty, sardonic self-deprecation, but when sung over the lush, sumptuous backing track, it attains a real majesty and dark, swirling beauty - and that's one of the keys to The Smiths' sublime success. This album version also wins out because the main body of the song doesn't begin until after two minutes of scene-setting sound effects and piano chords.
Another cornerstone of the record is "Paint a Vulgar Picture," another example of the effortless marriage of Morrissey's lyric with the rhythmic pulse of Rourke and Joyce and guitar melody of Marr, a deceptively pretty tale of record company sycophancy and commercial woe. The brief "Death at One's Elbow" is an injection of light-relief rockabilly, in the mould of "Vicar in a Tutu" from 'The Queen Is Dead,' before the emotional closer "I Won't Share You," a melancholy, breathy, and loving lyric and vocal from Morrissey sung atop a simple and gorgeous autoharp line from Marr. As the final entry into the Smiths' recorded legacy (it was not their absolute final recording, but their last song on their last album does lend it some degree of finality), it's pretty hard to beat. A wonderfully emotional, apt closer.
The Smiths' legacy is built on a run of fine records and memorable singles, all packaged together with the iconic Morrissey/Marr writing partnership, Morrissey's lyrics and image, and what The Smiths meant to '80s England and beyond. The Queen Is Dead is generally taken as the one Smiths record to own above all others, but there's a case for all of them, including the majesty that is Strangeways, Here We Come. It's up there with their most cohesive, consistent, and imaginative, and remains a wonderfully accessible delight.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 8 February 2003
STRANGEWAYS...Upon its release The Smiths had already called it a day, so listening to Strangeways felt a bit like listening to Lennon's Double Fantasy: Each album marked the passing of a huge force in the world of rock music. The Smiths were really the only other band I ever liked after the Beatles and one reason why is simply because whatever Morrissey moaned about between 1983 and 1987 seemed to be aimed at me! In my misery then, I knew that however low I felt, just listening to Strangeways helped because Mozza was in a worse state than me. That's how it felt to this (then)eighteen year old.
The critics seem to go for The Queen Is Dead. I don't. To me, the lyrics on Strangeways are better, the production is much better (a fellow reviewer called it polished and I have to agree), the playing is better and the overall feel of the album is stronger. The songs however, were the finest that the band would put out and, as I've already said, personally, they spoke to me in a way that - with the exception of Never Had No-One Ever - none of the tracks off The Queen Is Dead did.
From the opening jangling piano intro on A Rush & A Push to the haunting tones of the harmonica on the too-pretty-to-be-the-Smiths I Won't Share You, Strangeways is one of those albums that immediately takes me back to the time of its release. Morrissey cries "Don't mention LURVE!" on the opener, but his cries never sounded so genuine, yet the humour is to the fore throughout: "They said 'there's too much caffeine in your bloodstream'..I said 'Leave me alone, because I'm alright, dad!'"
Death of A Disco Dancer sees Johnny Marr replicate Lennon's cascading guitar line of Dear Prudence and Morrissey makes his debut on piano. Rachmaninov need not worry too much! But it's the voice, it just goes right through you, recorded so close that particularly with headphones one feels Morrissey is whispering right in your ear. Listen carefully for the laughter caught at the very end of the tape - maybe we shouldn't take this song too seriously!
Is there a finer single than Girlfriend In A Coma? It says everything, it does everything and yet is what, a couple of minutes or so long? Highly capo'd acoustic guitars and superb lyrics, this song means so much to me. "There were times when I could have murdered her, but you know I would HATE anything to happen to her". Genius.
The dreamy Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me I was sure was written for me. I quickly sussed the chords out on the guitar and would strum this to myself all the time - "Just another false alarm". I never quite understood the first minute and a half of rubbish at the front of the song, maybe it pushed the album over the thirty minute mark! Yet when it was released on a recent compilation, its edited form seemed naked.
Elsewhere, there's the straight to the point track Paint A Vulgar Picture which is more true now than it was sixteen years ago; the comical Death At One's Elbow and the wonderful Stop Me If You've Heard It Before complete with Marr's trademark jangly (Rickenbacker?) guitars (in the instrumental refrain. Also, Rourke's basslines cannot go without mention).
If there is any criticism regarding Strangeways it is the fact that at around 35 minutes long it's a little on the short side. The Smiths were reknowned for giving value for money - look at their b-sides (Coldplay & co would give their right arms for this material; Oasis would call it a day [we wish]). A couple more tracks would have done the job.
But that's a minor niggle. Strangeways was The Smiths' Abbey Road, in that they left on a high with all guns blazing, leaving us fans secretly wishing and hoping that the future would bring a re-union and new material. Like the Beatles, we will never see their like again. Unlike the Beatles (when I wasn't even born except for the last six months of 1969), I was in my late teens during the release of Strangeways and I feel I lived the album, that each song was a message to me and that no matter how bad life felt there was always someone far worse off than me.
This generation doesn't know what they're missing.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 23 February 2008
`The Queen is Dead' was regarded as the Smiths masterpiece and when `Strangeways Here We Come' was released the knives were out. `Sell Out' is the grossed insult a band can be accused of and with the radio friendly arrangements on this album coupled with the commercial success the singles preceding it were achieving they were really asking for it. As a casual rather than a die hard Smiths fan I thought it fantastic, easily there greatest LP.
Every song is a perfect slice of pop, the constraints of the `Indie Band' tag which was limiting arrangements on previous albums this one is produced to the songs strengths. Picking out best songs of such a collection is a complete waste however I'm still going to single out `Death of a Disco Dancer', `Girlfriend in a Coma' and `Paint a Vulgar Picture', I just can't help myself.
Egged on by the claims of `Selling Out' The Smiths then signed for a major, got the advance and then split up. `Re-issue, Re-package, Re-package, Re-evaluate the songs', you couldn't make this up.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 8 May 2002
A latecomer to Smithdom, I am glad I started listening to my neglected 'Singles (Diana Dors cover) CD that had gathered dust in my collection for 2 years unplayed. For the last 6 months I have listened to little else but their four studio albums, and despite what I've read here and elsewhere, 'Strangeways' more than holds its own. 'Stop Me...' is one of my favourite songs, 'Girlfriend In A Coma' never fails to raise a smile (typical Morrissey ambiguity), and if there is a more accurate and vicious satire on the music industry (or eerily prescient given the constant reissuing....'Repackage Repackage Repackage!')than 'Paint A Vulgar Picture' I'd like to hear it. Much of these songs are neglected on compilations for the earlier triumphs, and I believe the smiths should be discovered chronologically anyway, but this is essential and acts as a tantalising precursor of that album that never came..........ignore the ignoramuses who say the Smiths are depressing and Morrissey is a ponce.....Morrissey is a true poet and the band are one of the only in living memory who have made music that challenges and stimulates- for me are the only band worth noting between the Specials/The Jam and the arrival of fellow Mancs the Roses................
25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on 27 June 2004
Released in 1987 following a particularly protracted period of emotional and professional turmoil between visionaries Morrissey and Marr, Strangeways Here We Come was largely written off as something of a creative miss-step following the dizzying eclecticism of 1985's classic, The Queen is Dead... but why? One complaint at the time was that Johnny Marr's trademark jangly guitar sound had been pushed to the background, in favour of more professional instrumental arrangements and contemporary production techniques. However, one look at the credit sheet here will disprove this theory immediately, with Marr acting as both the musical arranger and the co-producer of the record (alongside Morrissey and Stephen Street), as well as playing all the guitar parts and the piano.
So, if anything, this gives the record an even tighter musical sound that is far more progressive and imaginative than any of the Smiths albums that came before, with both Morrissey and Marr operating at the height of their respective abilities throughout. Because of this, the album has a much thicker, more morose sound than the previous records, managing to seem both downbeat and reflective, without coming across as atmospherically suffocating (see Meat is Murder for details)... take the opener for instance. A Rush and A Push and the Land is ours remains, not only one of the best Smiths titles in the world ever!! but is also, without a doubt, one of their greatest ever compositions. Beginning with a distorted yelp that transforms seamlessly into Morrissey's Gregorian-like chant of "I am the ghost of troubled Joe...", with the rolling piano and foreboding percussion welling in the background, and then... we're off, "URGH-rush and a push and the land that we stand on is ours, it has been before and it shall be now...".
Morrissey's voice is as charismatic and idiosyncratic as ever, as he croons with abandon of how "people who are uglier than you and I, they take what they need and then leave"- which, when looked at within the context of the social and economic background of the late 1980's was a bold and satirical statement to make. Both, I Started Something I Couldn't Finish and Death of a Disco Dancer employ almost-narrative tales of despair, with the former benefiting from Marr's distorted rock-guitar and the pounding drums of Mike Joyce, whilst the latter has a great Andy Rourke bass-line and a wonderfully languid delivery from Morrissey. These tracks lead us seamlessly into that classic single, Girlfriend in a Coma, which continues the bouncy melancholic sound of tracks one and two... whilst also taking a cue from some of those previous Smiths classics, like Panic, Ask and This Charming Man. Morrissey's lyrics are both delightful and troubling as he opines "there were times when I could have murdered her... but you know, I would hate anything to happen to her"... whilst simultaneously making light of both the wild satire and self-deprecating melodrama of Douglas Coupland's similarly titled book.
Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before is more of that classic, jangle-pop sound, with some multi-layered backing instrumentation and great percussion... whilst the classic Last Night I Dreamt that Somebody Loved Me opens with a cacophony of dense sound-effects and chattering, angry voices, before Morrissey erupts into life, singing the central refrain over a bed of writhing guitars and pianos ("no hope, no harm... just another false alarm"). Unhappy Birthday is something of a fun novelty, with a classic Smiths chord structure and some good lyrics- but, cant help but pale in comparison to the songs that sandwich it on the album... Paint a Vulgar Picture is next, and remains one of the all time genius Smiths songs, with Morrissey attacking record company execs and shameless hangers on ('sycophantic slags'), whilst Marr, Joyce and Rourke create a great backing rhythm. Whilst the repeat chorus of "re-issue, re-package, re-package... re-evaluate the songs" has subsequently taken on a further degree of irony, when we consider the almost endless array of Smiths' compilations, bootlegs and 'best of's' now available on the market... and sadly, THIS was your life!!
Death at One's Elbow is another song that I'm not entirely sold on, being yet another continuation of Morrissey's desire to create a pure rockabilly track... though, that said, it does lead us nicely into the wilting and ethereal final moment, I Won't Share You. A classic example of Morrissey's strength when it comes to those heartfelt lyrics of despair, backed exclusively by Marr on a gentle acoustic guitar. Along with Paint a Vulgar Picture, Big Mouth Strikes Again, Reel Around the Fountain and There is a Light that Never Goes Out, it remains one of my very favourite Smiths' moments ("I'll see you somewhere... I'll see you sometime..."). Sadly, this would be the last album ever released by the Smiths, with Marr leaving shortly after its completion and Morrissey calling it a day soon after that. With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to see the negative press and the difficulties surrounding the album's production as the primary reason why 'Strangeways...' failed to garner the same kind of acclaim as the record that came before. However...
As far as I'm concerned, Strangeways Here We Come is easily as good as The Queen is Dead, and remains one of my favourite albums to listen to when at the height of despair!! Marr's approach to instrumentation was - at this stage - unrivalled, with the sonic horizons created here now sounding a million-miles away from anything else being created at the time... whilst Morrissey's lyrics remain as witty, cutting and insightful as they ever did, just as that iconic voice still manages to resonate with all the hurt and dejection of an entire generation.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
'Strageways, Here we Come' was the final Smiths album; it is also their finest. Following the brilliant 'Queen is Dead' album, The Smiths made some brilliant singles: 'Panic', 'Ask', 'Shoplifters of the World Unite'& 'Sheila Take a Bow'. B-sides and the like were equally great: 'Is it Really so Strange?', 'Half a Person', 'Sweet & Tender Hooligan' and 'You Just Haven't Earnt it Yet, Baby'. The songs were as great popsongs as early tracks like 'This Charming Man' & 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now'- but with spot-on humour in Morrissey's lyric's reflected in Marr's more adventerous music.
This was an album released by a dead band, which may have detracted from its progressive qualities...'A Rush & a Push and the Land is Ours' is the opening track- a Smiths song without any guitars? This is a strange waltz informed by dance music, that Marr was absorbing and would move towards with Electronic. Very-self-depreciating lyrics!...A fantastic T-Rex style riff opens the glamtastic 'I Started Something I Couldn't Finish'- the drums are almost danceable; the rhythm section always had more in common with Chic than the Mighty Lemon Drops. Bizarre also, the use of sax and the wonderful fading refrain of "typical me!"...'Death of a Disco Dancer' is a dark-counterpoint to 'Panic' ("Hang the DJ")- but takes up the lyrics of 'How Soon is Now?'- the club, the pub- cold places where people are reduced to doing the slag. Despite being a bit off-target regarding the joys of ecstasy- which did briefly bring people together- this is a spot-on song that captures the joylessness of putting one's self on the meat-rack. Strange piano by Morrissey, that sounds like an autistic-interpretation of Bowie's 'Aladdin Sane'...'Girlfriend in a Coma' was the breezy single initially released from this album- tender acoustic guitars and falling strings contrast with the dark lyrics. Very, Very odd...'Stop Me if You Think You've Heard This One Before' is another self-aware song title, with hilarious lyrics: "That would make a shy bald-Buddhist reflect and plan a mass-murder". Only John Lydon, Kevin Rowland and Mark E Smith have been this spot on in the lyrical sense.
'Last Night I Dreamt that Somebody Loved Me' does seem to be repeating themes of previous songs, 'How Soon is Now?' specifically. It opens with the sound of jeering crowds and minimal-semi-classical piano. Then the song comes in and blows you away- out-doing the likes of 'I Know it's Over' with a sound like 'Scott 3' via 'Never Had No One Ever'...'Unhappy Birthday' is another hilarious song, more upbeat acoustics and the timeless line, echoeing 'These Things Take Time's "alcoholic afternoons" with the great "drink drink drink and be ill tonight!"...'Paint a Vulgar Picture' is an ironic-post-modern pop song that references 'You Just Haven't Earnt it Yet, Baby'. It paints an amusing portrait of a destructing band and should have given the name to all subsequent cash-in Smiths compilations...'Death at One's Elbow' is one of those idiotic Smiths songs like 'Vicar in a Tutu'; Moz proclaiming "it's crap I know...". Pity they didn't choose 'I Keep Mine Hidden' over this track...Finally the ambiguous 'I Won't Share You' inconclusively concludes the final album from The Smiths. It looks back to the likes of 'Back to the Old House' and 'Please Please Please...'; this and the photo of Marr, head in hands, on the sleeve feel like total burnout. Morrissey wondering whether the perrier had gone to his head...
'Strangeways Here We Come' is the finest Smiths album and possibly the best final album from a band since 'Loaded'. It grows stronger with time and beats a "Friday Night in out-patients".
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 27 June 2003
Strange Ways Here we come - you can sum this album up in one word: - Classic. Any Smiths fan must have this album, it contains some of their best and most underated tracks. From the sarcastic yet sad 'Girlfriend In A Coma' to the attack at the capitalistic music business in 'Paint A Vulgar Picture'. It has both upbeat tracks in the likes of 'Stop me if you think that you've heard this one before' and sombre tunes as in 'Last night I dreamt that somebody loved me'. This album is beautiful, emotional and sums The Smiths up in it 10 tracks. And of course it has my favourite Smiths song 'Rush and a Push and the land is ours' as the opening track...what more could you ask for?
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 16 November 2001
This contains some outstanding Smiths tracks that stick in the memory and displays the band at their most experimental (The natural, raw sound of the previous albums is coated in a gloss of studio-synth, I usually hate this but it works a treat here!). It has some of the deepest most powerful, emotional songs of the bands brief history (the tragic'Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me', the satirical but biographical 'Paint A Vulgar Picture' and the beautiful, subtle 'I Won't Share You' spring immediately to mind) but also some of their most accessible yet brilliant pop songs (The astonishingly uncharacteristic 'The Death Of A Disco Dancer', is a brave and exiting affair that brings back memories of the golden years of the Beatles and 'Stop Me If You Think That You've Heard This One Before' is a super-charged burst of some of the best pop you will ever hear). "How can an album with such breathtaking songs possibly get below 5 stars?!" I hear you cry. Well there isn't anything wrong with the music at all, in fact it's brilliant, but for some reason, the album just doesn't gel, unlike 'The Queen is Dead'. That's one of the main reasons why that is considered by many to be their best album (The songs were placed perfectly, meaning that it is thought of as a highly polished album rather than picking out particular songs) but Strangeways, for some reason, seems more forced and synthetic in the position of the songs; they do not seem to seamlessly 'float' into each other like in previous albums. This is still an exceptional album with some of The Smiths best material on it, and i wish could give it 4.5 as it is sooo close to being another masterpiece, but falls short by the narrowest of narrow margins. But, when it comes down to it, who really cares? No matter what it's faults are, this is still a superb slice of musical history that deserves to be in anyones record collection. A suitable swansong for a superb group.