The Friday Morning Listen: The Smiths – Meat Is Murder (1985)

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Why the hell am I listening to The Smiths? The simple answer is that I saw a friend tweeting that he was listening to them. I was surprised, because I could have sworn that he found Morrissey’s voice off-putting. But then a short while later I discovered that Johnny Marr had played a couple of tunes on Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night. My friend is a huge fan of Marr, so there’s the connection. So hey, why not check them out again?

Some folks would be perplexed at my initial question, not realizing that the supposed genius of the band has never made itself known to these ears. I first became aware of them when Meat Is Murder came out and the video for “How Soon Is Now?” was all over MTV. Depite the engrossingly grainy video and Marr’s chunky vibrato, I just couldn’t get past Morrissey’s voice. People who front rock bands are supposed to rock, not croon in the manner of Andy Williams. That was my thought anyway…which lead me to ignore the band for the rest of their existence. No amount of glowing praise would make me reconsider.

But that was many, many years ago. In the intervening decades, the brilliance of Johnny Marr’s guitar playing got under my skin. Not that long ago, I found a video of Marr talking about music and his various guitars. You see that guy play the riffs from songs like “The Headmaster Ritual” or “This Charming Man” and the glowing praise for his work seems justified. Nobody sounds like Johnny Marr. He avoids nearly all rock guitar clichés in favor of intertwined chords, arpeggios, and connective melody lines.

I’m not sure what to call this, this listening to The Smiths thing. TheGreatRevisit™ of Past Sins? (Wait, wouldn’t that make it TheGreatRepentence™?) I do it periodically with a handful of artists because I’m concerned that I might have missed something. This habit is not without precedent. Every year or so I check out early Genesis and so far, I am repulsed. Same thing goes for Roxy Music. The music’s OK, but Brian Ferry’s vocals just make me cringe. Lester Bangs might have been going a little too far when he referred to Ferry as “the most vacuous excuse for a superstar that has yet been presented to us,” but there’s more than a little overlap between us on that issue.

Somehow, Morrissey’s wailing delivery has grown on me over time. Maybe it’s because my own eccentricity has expanded over the years, putting formerly “odd” things in reach?

Anyway, thanks Josh.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at [email protected]
Mark Saleski
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