This is seen as one of the greatest albums that was created in the 1980s, and also of all time. Not only that, but it charted well, especially in the UK as an album release. The Smiths created their own identity musically and had some talented musicians, notably the outspoken Morrissey who has his own views both applauded and criticised heavily within celebrity culture at various points in time. This album was released in 1986, during the height of Conservative based Thatcherism, which was a very divisive political movement and era in general, and had a huge influence on British musicians, including The Smiths, especially as many bands and musicians were against Thatcherism. This is a must listen for history’s sake but still let’s jump in and explore what we have got here.
The Queen Is Dead is the first track, title track and longest song on here. The Smiths obviously wished to make a statement early on in the album. It begins with some old fashioned English song based singing (Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty), followed by a song that launches into a good piece of Indie music with some excellent guitar work, with some wah-wah effects on it. This is instantly awesome and decent listening, with some introspective, introverted and sensitive singing and lyricism. This has some interesting storytelling about it and tells the tale of different life stories. The Smiths do sound very, very good as a band, and their music is instantly wonderful and impressive. This is a great musical piece, influenced heavily by Post Punk bands such as Joy Division and many others, drenched in British history. “Life is very long, when you’re lonely…” is repeated throughout this song. Nonetheless, a kind of music that is gorgeous and inimitable in its own way. This transcends its time and sounds like nothing else today. There is a touch of piano and keyboard towards the end, and this piece succeeds very well. A great tune to hear. The guitar work is excellent. Great tune from start to finish.
Frankly, Mr Shankly is a short and punchy tune that is Reggae influenced. It’s obviously an ironic tune and is apparently about the group’s manager. An interesting song with some great musicality about it, and Morrissey sings, “I’d rather be famous than righteous than holy,” and other great lines on this tune. An enjoyable tune that has a great climax towards the end, and is hilarious in a morbid way. It’s best to hear it. Nice work, and one which will make you laugh out loud.
I Know It’s Over begins with some pleasant harmonies and some lyrics about being buried. Pretty dreary stuff, but this was the era of Thatcherism. Nonetheless, this is a good piece of music with some pretty acoustic guitar and gurgling bass. This is already a legendary album, and we are only into the third track on this album. Singing about relationship issues, Morrissey delivers very well on this album, as does the rest of the band. A really pretty and wonderfully delivered song, this is very much a great expression of emotional desperation about being in love. A very good listening experience and this is a hugely personal song for many listeners. The darkness of emotion and delivery by Morrissey and the rest of the group is sensational. A great listen from start to finish, there is quite a deep, dark and disturbing psychological listen on this album. The repeated vocal line, “Mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head,” is sung to the finish. Very bleak.
Never Had No One Ever begins with some decent guitar work and melodies, just as Morrissey launches into his melodramatic musical mode. A good song but perhaps not a great one, but it still fits this album and musical mode perfectly. Morrissey sings here about pure loneliness and despair, and The Smiths collectively are basically what Joy Division may have been if Ian Curtis had lived. A rather close-to-the-bone listen emotionally, this is for those who have experienced a lifetime of loneliness. Anyway, a really good tune for what this is. The Smiths make simple music that emotionally sways one, and they do very well here. Another great song with a load of delay on the sounds in the fade out. Different.
Cemetry Gates is another short piece with jangly acoustic guitar and prominent bass lines. This is another brilliant tune with some repeated lyrics that sound great. This is about visiting a loved one in the cemetery, and it is a tune that makes one feel mortal. A really good tale of English life, this is a tremendous effort of a song. The whole album is worth repeat listens by this point, and Morrissey articulately delivers everything very well vocally. Good music, although the bleak imagery is not for everyone.
Bigmouth Strikes Again begins with more strummed acoustic guitars, powerful drumming and another decent tune from The Smiths. This one is about relationship issues and is fairly raw and emotionally upfront in delivery. There are some great guitar parts within, and this certainly sounds awesome and amazing. A quintessential piece of British music history, The Smiths deliver a great song and album. This is Post-Punk at its finest. There are some chaotic drum rolls in the second half leading into the guitar solo, which is majestic. A really cool tune, although it is lyrically morbid. Catchy and great listening.
The Boy With The Thorn In His Side comes next, sounding cheery and upbeat, surprisingly. This poetic music gets kicking along well, and it is another song about love and relationship issues. This music is somewhat akin to the 1980s version of The Beatles Help! song and album in the sense that love and relationship issues are brought to the fore. Still, it is very original and wonderful listening and just sounds tuneful and fantastic. A great song to hear, just like the rest of the album. Poetry set to music, The Smiths are outstanding on this album. Some awesome vocal harmonies are present in the second half of this song and are really sweet sounding. A great mixture of songwriting, decent musicianship and performance, The Smiths nail it here. A great tune, and album too.
Vicar In A Tutu is an awesome tune. It is a parody of the nature of Christianity and is obviously something out there bizarre and funny. Another great song that definitely should make you laugh in joy, this is another golden British witticism, the best since the Sex Pistols declared Anarchy In The UK. The music perfectly matches it with some upbeat acoustic guitar, clean and pretty electric guitars and a great backing rhythm. This is a joy, but just don’t play it around Christians, they may get offended. Still, that is the point of the song being on this album. It ends with some strange sounds.
There Is A Light That Never Goes Out is one of the most popular songs by The Smiths. It is a song about going out with a lady to have fun. This predated the Rave scene that emerged in the UK around 1987-1988. This music was set for the future and is a really decent and quality listen. A more serious tune to listen to, this is destroyed by dealing with a motor car accident that affects the couple that Morrissey portrays in this song. A great melodramatic piece of beauty, precision and monumental listening, this should be heard by many. This is a great song that is beautiful and tragic simultaneously, but is gorgeous: “…to die by your side, well, the pleasure and privilege is mine,” is a tragic and wonderfully beautiful lyric. Lovely and pretty music and a must listen from The Smiths. The outro has a keyboard string section and what sounds like a flute being played. Brilliant effort.
Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others begins with a strange fade in, which is very odd. Soon enough, we have a tune that is simple, pretty and melodic. Morrissey sings about male sexual lust. Opposite of what gets Kid Rock turned on, Morrissey like skinny ladies. Still, this is a good song for what it is, and it would seem that musically The Smiths are the opposite of anything Kid Rock ever made, in actual fact. Still, a tremendous effort and a good song to finish off this amazing album. Really joyful and refreshing for all its misery, The Smiths succeed wonderfully from start to finish. There is an extended outro with some gorgeous guitar sounds and textures. Bravo.
Certainly, The Smiths cut out a golden classic of an album here. Everything about it, provided you are into Indie Rock or just Rock in general, is perfectly played and sung well by all members of the group. This is the better side of the 1980s, an era where mullet haircuts, cheesy keyboards and deregulation politics didn’t age well. This has, however. Listen to this immediately, if you have made it this far through this review. A phenomenal effort.