The British music critic establishment and whomever else greeted this band as saviours must have been so desperate for guitars to greet this band – this jangle pop music – as the thing to deliver them from synthesizers, instead of something louder or more interesting (or both). The Smiths are one of those mystifying bands I will never get the hype over. It’s like you’ve all gone mad.
Yes, the British have a long tradition of liking this kind of jangly, inoffensive guitar-based rock music, and preferring it to more interesting things. We know the predecessors: the Kinks, the Who, the Jam – literate bands who rarely took musical risks and who are now held up as the epitome of British popular music. (Think, for instance, of all the lauding of Brit Pop, much of which was just alternative Kinks/Who/Jam but which was treated as if it was the best music ever made by the British press.) But what really gets me, I guess, is that Morrissey is deemed enough of unique personality – and Johnny Marr incredibly considered enough of a guitar virtuoso – to make the old seem new again. (As an aside, it’s amusing to read all the “I guess Morrissey is actually an asshole” columns in the 2010s because he’s always been an asshole. I don’t know why it took everyone so long to figure this out.) What specifically do The Smiths add to The Jam beyond Morrissey’s wingeing?
There is literally one track on this record that has any kind of rock immediacy too it. One fucking track. At least some of the American jangle pop bands tried to substitute other things when they decided not to rock. The Smiths are just boring when they don’t try to sound like an actual rock band.
The songs are catchy enough. Morrissey is a good lyricist – sometimes a great one – even though I hate him. The music is competent jangle pop. But of all the bands from the 1980s to celebrate – why this one? I just don’t get it. I will never get it.
6/10 because it’s competent but I want to rank it lower because of stupid Smiths hype.
PS There were so many guitar-based bands making more interesting and better music in 1984. Many of them were even in the UK!