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Customer Review

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars In retrospect: no classic...., 24 Dec. 2003
This review is from: Meat Is Murder (Audio CD)
Hmmm, I've been listening to many an old record lately, & have worked my way through The Smiths back-catalogue & to be fair, excepting compilation Hatful of Hollow, they didn't make a classic album until The Queen is Dead (1986). Johnny Marr's comparisons of MIM to The Beatles' Revolver sound a bit silly in retrospects; as debut The Smiths (1984) there are some great songs and some that are just OK...
It opens with The Headmaster Ritual, one of the key Smiths songs and having everything that is great about them: Marr's jangly guitars, Morrissey's brilliant lyrics delivered in his typical style & the tight rhythm section of what turned out to be session musicians (the status Joyce & O'Rourke seem to get...). This one is produced by The Smiths themselves- the production for The Queen & Strangeways is far superior.
I'm not keen on several songs here- Rusholme Ruffians is that polecat rockabilly thang that as the live version from Rank proved, just wanted to be His Latest Flame. I Want the One I Can't Have has some great lyrics ("on the day that your mentality catches up with your biology") but it goes on far too long. This from the band who made perfect length tracks such as William, It Was Really Nothing, Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want & Girl Afraid- I Want the One I Can't Have is overlong...
The centre of the album is undeniably wonderful- the robust rocker What She Said (leading towards tracks like The Queen is Dead & Sweet and Tender Hooligan) & classic single That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore, with that wonderful line, "I've seen this happen in other people's lives/and now it's happening in mine". Next, as the UK reissues from Warners (who purchased The Smiths back catalogue & have exploited it frequently), there is the great single How Soon is Now? But this wasn't on the album- are the label suggesting it was? It sticks out like a sore thumb here as there are only a few tracks remotely close to it. But it already had a place on compilation Hatful of Hollow, so to stick it on here is a bit disingenous- especially when other tracks of the era such as Stretch Out & Wait and Shakespeare's Sister aren't included!
Nowhere Fast is childish and dull, sort of a template for most of Morrissey's solo career; though this is countered by the sublime Well I Wonder- the standout song here and the kind of brilliant music that Marr would produce on the final two Smiths albums (& infrequently since...)Its influence is still apparent on a track like World War 24 on Ryan Adams' Love is Hell Part 1 (produced by ex-Smiths producer John Porter). Marr would make a more and more interesting use of acoustic guitar on later tracks such as Half a Person, Frankly Mr Shankly & I Keep Mine Hidden; Well I Wonder steps in that direction...
The album closes on some poor tracks- Barbarism Begins at Home is a tedious rock-funk workout with minimal lyrics that is almost seven-minutes long. Yawn! Southpaw Grammar is interesting compared to this one- which is musically inferior to similar chuff by U2, 1983's The Refugee. The closing track is Meat is Murder, great sentiments but a bit pious and the song itself...isn't very good. It's basically Suffer Little Animals, with the odd twiddly guitar motif but apart from that...not particularly notable. & let's note that Morrissey ripped it out of Live Aid, making his typically inflammatory comments- sure it had problems (bands benfitting from charity)- but the notion that nice animals matter & starving kids don't are part of what makes Morrissey a problem (see 'reggae is vile' & all the problems, apart from the trad music, he had in the 1990s).
Meat is Murder has some great moments, some OK moments and a couple of real clunkers- it sounds achingly conservative and every cliche uttered about indie music or The Smiths in parts. Following this, they wouldn't put a foot-wrong till their sad demise in 1987- of the official albums, this is the least interesting. & compared to albums released in that year- Cupid & Psyche 85, A Secret Wish, The Head on The Door, This Nation's Saving Grace, Rattlesnakes, Treasure, Flip Your Wig, Fables of the Reconstruction, Nail, Around the World in a Day etc- it doesn't measure up-
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 11 Jun 2011 12:30:20 BDT
A perceptive review which echoes my own ambivalent feelings about this album (and their first for that matter). There does seem to be a bit of a schism amongst Smiths fans - either you're an early or a latter period fan (one touring tribute band even runs an online poll asking fans to vote on what period of songs they would like the band to play at gigs!). Like the reviewer, whilst I adore some of the early songs, and 'That Joke... ' and 'Well I Wonder' are real gems from this album in particular, there does seem to be a surfeit of unremarkable material from the first two studio albums - they really hit their stride with 'The Queen is Dead' and the unsurpassed 'Strangeways'. Given the choice between 'Barbarism', 'Rusholme', 'MIM', and 'I Know its Over', 'Stop Me...', 'Last Night...', I will take the latter every time.
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