Wednesday, November 23, 2011
I am honored to present a Guest Post today. The record is Louder Than Bombs, by The Smiths. Here is what my good friend Joe writes: While The Smiths' four proper studio albums vary from good (Strangeways, Here We Come) to brilliant (The Queen Is Dead), because the band was, at bottom, a pop group, their singles best highlighted the exciting tension in the band, particularly between Morrissey's strange, morose lyrics and Johnny Mars' sparkling (and often jaunty) guitar leads. In other words, they were a born singles-compilation band, and "Louder Than Bombs" is a classic compilation, packaged for the U.S. market, of singles and B-sides, which had mostly been previously released in the Smiths' home country of England on two prior compilations. (Interestingly, because (in those days, before the mp3), there was nowhere else to get all of these songs on one album, the English label re-released "Louder Than Bombs" in the UK, and it turned out to be a bigger seller than the other previously-released records!). While not ultimately as satisfying as the more compact and comprehensive "The Singles," it still boasts so many tremendous singles it's not to be missed. "Ask," "Panic," "Shoplifters of the World Unite," "William, It Was Really Nothing" "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now," "Shakespeare's Sister," and "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want." are all stone classics. Plus, included is a personal favorite of mine, a killer John Peel session of "Is It Really So Strange?" in which Morrissey's swaggering arrogance and compelling lyrics are at full boil in front of a perfect pop hook ("I left the North / I traveled South / I found a tiny house / And I can't help the way I feel / And oh yes, you can kick me / And you can punch me / And you can break my face / But you won't change the way I feel / 'Cause I love you."). Notably missing is "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out," which compels many Smiths fans (including me) to given Louder Than Bombs a 9.5 rather than a 10. However, it highlights The Smiths at the top of their game: Morrissey is at his swooning, darkly ambiguous best, and the entire band is tight, with Johnny Mars particularly sharp. Three minutes of pop perfection, over and over again.