Customer Review

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the real smiths, 16 April 2010
This review is from: Hatful Of Hollow (Audio CD)
Already the darlings of the late great John Peel and the music press, Morrissey and Marr's Smiths had, by 1984, yet to make a satisfying entry in the album stakes. Their eponymous debut had some fine songs, but the production had left them sounding un-finished. Luckily their prodigious work-rate and sensible decision to use Radio 1 sessions as substitute studio/rehearsal time meant that they were soon perfecting their recorded sound as well as honing their formidable writing skills. A deal was struck to release these sessions along with some non-album A and B sides as Hatful Of Hollow. Hatful...'s versions of the debut's material, including ''Hand In Glove'', ''Reel Around The Fountain'' and ''What Difference Does It Make'', suddenly come alive in this quick and dirty environment, more closely resembling the live favourites that had won them acclaim in the first place. But it was the new material that really shone here in both Morrissey's deadpan witticisms and Marr's way with a punchy hook, mastering the gothic, Northern pathos. It has Morrissey's faintly mocking sense of teenage rejection offset by Marr's stunning vibrato guitar chimes and a rhythm section you could set your watch to. It was their true debut in every sense. This is the prime dose of Smiths, these versions of old tried and tested songs have a freshness about them with a inexplicable raw edge that makes them sound about a hundred times better than they did on the debut. There aren't many bands within modern English language pop music that can elicit versatile heartfelt sighs.

Hatful of Hollow captures precisely 16 shots of adolescent displeasure, humour, frustration, wishful thinking, and frankly, fixation; sounding in turns like slaps, punches and long, drawn out sighs. It is a band summing up beautifully what it means to be growing up awkwardly and feeling strange; wanting love and yet still not fully believing in it. Hatful of Hollow truly is a great record. The Smiths had an impressive catalogue in their regrettably short life, and the fact that they were able to release such an exceptional compilation after nothing more than one album to their name is a testament to their early musical spark and vigour. Hatful of Hollow was released in late 1984 to tide the gap between their eponymous debut's release earlier in the year and their eagerly anticipated sophomore studio album, Meat is Murder. Hollow

The Smiths will of course always be derided as miserabilists. But it's the humour and beauty involved that those criticisms always seem to miss or worse yet ignore. They somehow managed to interoperate with pinpoint my own personal pangs and social frustrations and suffering with as much blunt accuracy and humour. This topics share the same shattered and lonely individualism, a wish for self-centeredness that is both juvenile and laughable over a collection of subtle overlapping guitars of such beauty and timelessness. This is why the Manchester quartet will always be important, as through the combination of Morrissey's wondrous lyrics and Johnny Marr's aching guitar melanges, they could instantly make you feel nostalgic, aching as it were for something,

This though the release is not a real album but a collection of at the time unreleased singles, their mostly fantastic b-sides and much of their first album redone for the John Peel sessions. And that it could hold up and some say surpasses their studio work is remarkable, though it illustrates how strong and orginal band they were, and how they were improving. But aside from these revisited tunes, what makes this collection great is the sheer incredible breadth of it, as not once among the entire set does the quality, focus, or energy dip, this though many mellower songs abound.
The Smiths were a band always at their best when playing to their contrasts; Morrissey's Gladiolas to Marr's leather jacket, sexual references among declarations of celibacy, poppy and light sounds while lifting eruditely from literature, deadly serious yet mocking themselves and the world around. The Smiths are a band worshipped across the globe by legions of spotty awkward angsty ridden teenage timid and social rejects, and despised by most everybody else. The reasons are entirely due to lead singer Morissey's persona. The "oh, the agonies of life!" whining of this miserable, hypersensitive, vegetarian, celibate moppet can certainly put you off the band for good, but you really shouldn't. Morrissey has a supreme talent of hitting on both the male and female perspectives The other reason to pay attention to the Smiths is that they contained possibly the best English guitarist of their generation, Johnny Marr. Morrissey's sexual ambiguousness, both in his media personality and in his lyrics, allowed the listener to mould the song to their own liking and interpret it however they saw fit. Some saw "Reel Around the Fountain" as nothing more than an harmless love song, others saw it as a bestial telling of paedophilia. Some listeners interpreted "These Things Take Time" as an innocent retelling of a friendly drunken afternoon - others interpreted as a ghastly abomination detailing unrequited homosexual love.

But Morrissey's writing talents and vocal contributions alone would not make this record a success. Instead, guitarist Johnny Marr took firm hold of the writing helms and made the Smiths listenable. Influenced heavily by Keith Richards (Rolling Stones), Ray Davies (the Kinks) Mick Ronson (David Bowie), Johnny Marr had an intense understanding of how to effectively compose guitar-based pop music. His jangling, 60s-harking music, while on paper it may not have looked a fitting accompaniment to Morrissey's whiny livejournal ramblings, served in fact as a perfect foil. Morrissey and Marr's frictional relationship lead to some of the best pop songs put to record. The relationship is odd but reassuringly fitting. We have the proof since neither artist has really achieved much since there break up. The Queen is Dead is often regarded as the pinnacle of the Smiths music, and as one the cornerstones of music history. But Hatful of Hollow, despite being a compilation, serves as a more accurate portrayal of the untempered brilliance of the Smiths.

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Tracked by 1 customer

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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 18 Oct 2013 09:10:30 BDT
Duncan Pugh says:
Excellent review! Definitely the best Smiths album although it is technically a compilation.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Mar 2014 21:19:47 GMT
P. J. Turner says:
True technically a compilation but also an unintentional masterpiece.
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