I’m telling you now – The best of the Smiths

The era when I was old enough to discover music coincided with the first peak of Morrissey’s solo career, during which he released a run of fabulous singles between 1988’s Viva Hate and 1991’s Kill Uncle* (his commercial peak wouldn’t come for another three years). My friend Greg assembled a fab mix tape that began with “Bigmouth Strikes Again,” ran through most of the marvelous first third of Louder Than Bombs, and ended with “Asleep” and “How Soon is Now?” Nudged out of uncommitted asexuality by new friends, I found the Smiths/Morrissey the ideal soundtrack, although I preferred Soho’s “Hippychick” to “How Soon is Now?” and so should you – what better way to repudiate Morrissey’s disco-baiting “Panic”? Hang the singer.

This list contains of twenty-five favorites I return to with varying degrees of pleasure. Morrissey dishing is better than Morrissey moping: no “Suffer Little Children” here. As for the albums, my admiration for Meat is Murder grows. Long dismissed by, well, me, as a mausoleum for the exhausted wit of their first phase, it sounds now like a welcome run through Morrissey’s increasing confidence in the delineation of his blue balls. The self-production adds color and a sheen that makes me wonder what else John Porter obscured on the eponymous debut. And Johnny Marr’s six- and twelve-string odysseys get raunchier and more intricate: the Britfunk workout “Barbarism Begins at Home” sustains a groove and prepared the world for “The Queen is Dead.”

1. You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby
2. London
3. I Started Something That I Couldn’t Finish
4. There is a Light That Never Goes Out
5. This Charming Man
6. Sweet and Tender Hooligan
7. Ask
8. Some Girls Are Bigger…
9. Cemetery Gates
10. Barbarism Begins at Home
11. The Queen is Dead
12. I Won’t Share You
13. Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before
14. Bigmouth Strikes Again
15. Half a Person
16. Is It Really So Strange?
17. Back to the Old House
18. Panic
19. I Know It’s Over
20. What Difference Does It Make?
21. Asleep
22. This Night Has Opened My Eyes
23. Sheila Take a Bow
24. Shoplifters of the World, Unite
25. Still Ill

* Dismissed as tepid and for its production/arrangement mismatch, Kill Uncle benefits from the echo-happy mix; the distance between performer and material is the aural calling card for a queer approach to material. “King Leer” and “Driving Your Girlfriend Home” are wry-dry tales of other people’s sexual confusion sung and written without condescension. I can’t dislike the album.

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