One of two things is happening: either I am slowly – slowly – getting so inured to The Smiths that I no longer hate their guts – or I have listened to enough of the British music of the 1980s to finally understand why people thought they were such a big deal. I still don’t really get it, but I get it more than I used to.
I say this because who, in the UK, sounded like this in 1985? Basically nobody that I’m aware of. And that has to count for something, right? I still find their sound less appealing than the best American jangle pop bands, but I am finally willing to grant that it was a unique sound in the UK at the time.
Of course, one major aspect of its uniqueness – and something that distinguishes them from any UK or American jangle pop bands – is Morrissey’s voice. My quibble with Morrissey has never been about his voice and on this record it is in fine form. Again, who sounds like this in 1985? Just him.
But uniqueness isn’t everything, is it? I remain utterly unimpressed by Johnny Marr as a guitarist and find his Guitar God status to be utterly mystifying. There’s nothing wrong with him, but if this is the person who you are looking at for inspiration for guitar playing…ugh. The legions of fascinating, unique and innovative rock guitarists to come of age in the 1980s – across the spectrum of genres – makes the whole thing even weirder. Okay, if this was 1965 I’d get it, I would.
And I remain utterly divided on Morrissey and his lyrics. He is a good lyricist, dare I say excellent, lyricist. But even at this early stage he is a gigantic asshole. I generally don’t like being told how to live but I especially don’t like it when the person spewing the lecture is such a flawed human being. (I mean, he’s a bad person, as far as I can tell.) Judge not, asshole.
Still, I am willing to concede that this is a good album. I still don’t like this band, but I mostly get it now, I think.