Lesser bands wouldn't have been able to carry off a five star compilation album which consisted mostly of B sides and rarities, but that's exactly what Manchester's indie music heroes The Smiths did with the release of 'Louder Than Bombs' in 1987.
There are a few major hits amidst the alternative playlist, including Sheila Take a Bow', 'Shoplifters of the World Unite', 'Panic', 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now', and ''Hand in Glove', but really though, if it's the famous stuff that you require on a CD, then you should look elsewhere (for example, see The Sound of the Smiths).
My favourite tracks here include the sublime, but (if anything) far too short 'Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want' (the B side of 'William, It Was Really Nothing'), the upbeat rocker 'London', the sneering 'You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby', and the wonderful 'This Night Has Opened My Eyes'. Personally, I don't even mind the cover of 'Golden Lights', which was written by the recently deceased, minor '60s pop star Twinkle, and a recording that the band themselves dislike.
Considering that these tracks were mostly neglected as B sides, this is a very strong collection of timeless songs. It's hard to think of a British rock band who were as honest and authentic as Morrissey, Johnny Marr, Andy Rourke, and Mike Joyce were. The Smiths' music was brilliant storytelling, complemented with excellent arrangements, and Morrissey's distinctive vocals and delivery style. Louder Than Bombs' contains material which even casual admirers should know about, so do yourself a favour, and go and discover the bigger picture with this collection.
In the spring of 1987, one year following the group's masterpiece "The Queen Is Dead," the Smiths released two albums. In the UK, they unleashed "The World Won't Listen." But in the United States, they released "Louder Than Bombs," a double album of singles, b-sides, and rare tracks. A compilation of this nature shouldn't work, but, amazingly, it did. "Louder Than Bombs" shows why singer Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr weren't just simply leaders in mope rock--they were also among the most vital and influential British songwriters of the 1980s. Morrissey exposes his utter contempt for pop music in the semi-controversial "Panic," croons though the brilliant and self-loathing "Unlovable;" shines through the potent "Rubber Ring," and is even funny in the snide "You Just Haven't Earned it Yet, Baby." But the heart of the album, I think, is the still-marvelous "Hand In Glove," the band's debut single replete with Johnny Marr's stellar guitars. But the songs I just mentioned only hint at the many riches this album has to offer. At 24 tracks, "Louder Than Bombs" is a huge platter of material, but the songs here are brisk and range from very good to brilliant. I played this to death when I first bought it, and it still gets the occasional spin in my stereo. A great album that earns its five stars.
Since Louder than Bombs is effectively a compilation of B-sides, sessions and singles, it is astonishing just how damn good the level of the music is here. Though LtB features much of what was released on The World Won't Listen (the UK version at the time), this is definitely the better of the two. 24 songs, with a standard typical of Morrissey and Marr. Bar the inexplicable Golden Lights (what were they thinking?), there are numerous stand out tracks here. Many of the more up-tempo songs (Sweet and Tender Hooligan, Shakespeare's Sister, These Things Take Time) are fantastic, though London is just awesome as a furious rocker. There are those who accuse The Smiths of being miserable, and thus miss the point of Morrissey's lyrics and Marr's clever songwriting. Such songs exist here, in the shape of Heaven Knows I'm Miserbale Now, Half A Person and This Night Has Opened My Eyes, as well as utter classic Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want. If you're looking for a Smiths compilation, steer clear of the post-Smiths releases (Singles, Best I & II, Very Best Of). Hatful of Hollow is perhaps the definitive Smiths compilation, but you would do well to add Louder Than Bombs to your collection. Simply unmissable.