Friday, September 28th, 2012
41

'Strangeways, Here We Come' At 25

On this day in 1987 The Smiths released their last—and best—album. Yes, I know that statement will be HUGELY CONTROVERSIAL THROUGHOUT THE INTERNETS, particularly with people who claim to have bought the "Hand In Glove" single on import when it came out even though they were actually only 10 at the time, but also with those who feel like The Queen Is Dead is the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band of the self-pitying set. I get it. The Queen Is Dead is a really good record. Strangeways is better. From the bouncy opening of "A Rush And A Push" (their best song; again, apologies, but it is) to the wistful fade-out of "I Won't Share You," you are in the hands of a band at the height of its power. You think "I Know It's Over" is the beautiful, poetic apogee of feeling sorry for yourself? "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me" both bulks up and strips down to reveal that inclination's stark and brutal reality. (Related: Delete the intro to that song and you've taken away half of Dan Bejar's career.) Is there anything more self-prophetic and self-parodying as "Paint A Vulgar Picture"? I'm sure there's even someone who can defend "Death Of A Disco Dancer," which, frankly, is the one I always skip, but no matter. It sounds ridiculous that, two-and-a-half decades after it came out we might still be talking about this, but let me tell you: in the Jewy Northeastern suburbs from which I emerged, you were actually required to choose between The Cure and The Smiths; this was the record that converted me from the former to the latter. It doesn't take anything away from the rest of the group's catalog to say that they went out on a high note. It's funny, I used to get upset when I started meeting people who knew Morrissey as a solo artist before they learned that he had also been in a band; lately I'm just happy if anyone's heard of him at all, although he's certainly not doing himself any favors these days and oh my God that memoir's going to be the 50 Shades of Grey of cut-rate Oscar Wilde impressions and deliberate withholding. Anyway, what was I saying? Oh, right: album, you, old. But still the best. (The album, not you.) Go have a listen.

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41 Comments / Post A Comment

oudemia (#177)

It is the best.
(Did you see them the previous summer at Pier 84? We all of us from those same Jewy Northeastern Suburbs did it seems.)

LondonLee (#922)

Pick whatever one you want as long as it's not 'Hatful of Hollow' – when people do that I always scream "It's a compilation album! It doesn't count!"

And I still think 'Hand In Glove' is their best single. The original 45 version of course (which I bought when it came out!)

Emkay (#228,613)

@LondonLee Agreed and cosigned on 'Hatful of Hollow'. I had a terrible ex with a great record collection, and he'd always pull out HoH with the reverence usually seen when a medieval cleric holds an illuminated manuscript. "Let's put…this on." Me: "The one that's basically a mix tape? Sure."

werewolfbarmitzvah (#16,402)

This album is a mixed bag for me – half of it I love and half of it I could take or leave. "A Rush and a Push and the Land is Ours," "I Started Something I Couldn't Finish," "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before," and "I Won't Share You" are among my favorites, but things like "Girlfriend in a Coma" and "Death at One's Elbow" feel like throwaway tracks that got tossed together in 5 minutes.

The eponymous first album is probably my personal favorite of the bunch – something about the roughness and iffy production works for me.

skyslang (#11,283)

@werewolfbarmitzvah Blasphemy! "Girlfriend in a Coma" is one of their best. Maudlin to the point of hilarity.

werewolfbarmitzvah (#16,402)

@skyslang Ohhhhhh, see, I'd say the perfect instance of "maudlin to the point of hilarity" would be "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now," which is a hysterically funny song while also sounding better instrumentally than "Girlfriend in a Coma."

Also, side note: in the interview linked in the above post, Morrissey says he's been shot at 43 times and I think I'm too dense to figure out whether he's kidding or serious. Because 43 would be a lot of times to be shot at! Even once is quite a few times to be shot at!

Dave Bry (#422)

I also think "Strangeways" here we come is the best Smiths album. But I am that person who will indeed defend "Death of a Disco Dancer." Frankly (Mr. Shankly), it is my no. 1 very favorite Smiths song!

Something about those rolling guitar chords that end it out, they sort of stay in my mind forever and always, that melody's liable to take over head anytime I'm walking down the street—similar sound, and with similar lasting effect, as achieved by Belle & Sebastian on "This is Just a Modern Rock Song," which makes sense, I guess. Because that is probably my favorite Belle & Sebastian song. (Though, you know, ask me tomorrow and it might be "Lazy Line Painter Jane" or "The Boy With the Arab Strap.")

Michael Schiavo (#3,967)

@Dave Bry Ditto ibid etc.!!!!

tomme (#4,473)

@Dave Bry Lazy Line FTW.

GailPink (#9,712)

"Death of a Disco Dancer" may be my favorite track on the album.

Bittersweet (#765)

What kind of town forces you to pick between the Cure and the Smiths? We were more democratic in NoVa, and most people liked both. (You made the right choice, though.)

This album has serious nostalgia value for me, as it came out my senior year of high school, but The Queen is Dead will always be my favoritest.

Matt (#26)

In the Micky Mid-Atlantic suburbs from which I emerged, you were actually required to choose between Van Halen and another version of Van Halen; [Diver Down] was the record that converted me from the latter to the former.

In high school in the LA suburbs in 1987, you chose between whatever the faux-surfer bros were listening to (usually a Marley derivation) and ANYTHING else. Naturally I chose the Butthole Surfers and Crass and The Smiths.

But am I the only one who thinks "How Soon Is Now" is their best single? I wore out that 12", and my daughter is gonna get it in my will.

Kakapo (#2,312)

@Clarence Rosario I think everyone our age has thought "How Soon is Now?" was their best single at some point. Excellent teenage driving song.

jolie (#16)

I'm so excited that there's a place for this.

Listicle without Commentary: Fake Morrissey Song Titles That Went Woefully Unnoticed in the Aftermath of 'Catherine, I Dislike You', In Order

"We Hate It When Johnny Marr Becomes Successful"
"I Left My Self Esteem at Your Place"
"There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, I Don't What's Wrong With It I Thought of Calling an Electrician But They're So Expensive These Days"
"There Are Cars in My Driveway"
"Go Away"
"You're Like a Beautiful Rainbow That Hates Me"
"Last Night a Meat Eater Killed Your Baby"
"I Don't Really Like Animals Anymore"
"Never Stick Out the Lease"
"I Have Been Peeved"
"These Mints are Only Vaguely Minty"
"You're Aware That I'm Slightly Hearing Impaired?"
"These Children Have Some Diseases"
"The Velveteen Touch of a Dandy Fop (Mr. Show Cover)"
"Heavens to Betsy"
"I'm Afraid He Can't Come to the Line As He's Dead"
"The Colors of the Street"
"We're All Vexed With The Bloomsbury Set"
"Let's Kick the Darkies Out of England, Charles"
"Last Night I Did The Dusting"
"Picnic With a Werewolf Bride"
"Dislike is Our Favorite Kind"
"Yesterday Was a Dusty Luncheon"
"My Uncle Was Quite Fond Of The Queen Mother"
"Oh, I'm Terribly Bored, This Morning"
"You Have Stolen My Flatware"

petejayhawk (#1,249)

@jolie That post is still, and will always be, my favorite thing on the internet.

Tuna Surprise (#573)

@jolie

"Last Night I Did the Dusting" is an instant classic.

jolie (#16)

@Tuna Surprise It took all of my strength not to make the titles about dusting #1 and #2.

Emkay (#228,613)

@jolie Now I'm going to have "I Have Been Peeved" in my head all day.

werewolfbarmitzvah (#16,402)

@jolie "Never stick out the leeeeeeease, dear Basil/I know the landlord said he'd fix the pipe, but he never will/Your flatmate won't turn down the heat/But you and I both know he'll leave you with the bill!/Pack your bags while everyone's asleep, and remember/Basil, never stick out the leeeeeeeeeease!"

deepomega (#1,720)

Sad music for white people. No thanks!

skyslang (#11,283)

@deepomega Actually, it's quite funny music. But yeah it is for white people.

I realized recently that I might not actually hate karaoke after all, I just hate that karaoke doesn't involve "A Rush and a Push." (Though, if it suddenly does involve that song, best not to tell me.)

Emkay (#228,613)

Is this the time that we talk about signing up for a pen pal through a Smiths fanzine and ending up getting letters from a Texas state penitentiary; a difficult situation to explain to parents when you're 13? "He say's he's innocent, and he asked me to send the pillow that I dream on! You guys don't get it!!"

City_Dater (#2,500)

There is almost no there there without Johnny Marr, the man who is probably responsible for half of the people in my generation who play guitar…

bombed_pop (#10,642)

Are you in my brain? Except it is always skip Girlfriend in a Coma, I've come to terms with Death of a Disco Dancer and can argue it's merits.

Bunburying (#81,872)

And here I thought I was Most Controversial by favoring Meat Is Murder above all others…

Rowdy_Suckla (#238,286)

I trust everyone in this thread heard in Mitt Romney's "47% Speech" the lyrics to "Still Ill"

I decree today that life is simply taking and not giving. “The United States is mine,” they say, “it owes me a living.” “But ask me why, and I’ll spit in your eye.” Oh, ask *me* why and I’ll spit in *your* eye! [Applause] We cannot cling to the old dreams anymore. No, we cannot cling to those dreams.

tinyurl.com/cnrckzl

Well the album is twice older than my age but the songs are interesting, that is what my uncle says :p
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kolomayah (#241,825)

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Gerai Anak

It's funny, I used to get upset when I started meeting people who knew Morrissey as a solo artist before they learned that he had also been in a band.
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niltes (#243,635)

This album has serious nostalgia value for me, as it came out my senior year of high school, but The Queen is Dead will always be my favoritest. What kind of town forces you to pick between the Cure and the Smiths? We were more democratic in NoVa, and most people liked both. (You made the right choice, though.) good skin

john smith (#245,014)

On this day in 1987 The Smiths released their last—and best—album. Yes, I know that statement will be HUGELY CONTROVERSIAL THROUGHOUT THE INTERNETS, particularly with people who claim to have bought the "Hand In Glove"
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alicejoan (#245,310)

nice job,thanks for sharing!

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