I know what you’re thinking, because I, myself, had these same infuriated thoughts: another Smiths compilation? Before you start quoting me the lyrics to that infamous song, track 8 to be precise, from Strangeways Here We Come, there’s a reason for hearing out this collection dubbed The Sound of The Smiths. Johnny Marr supervised the mastering of the 45 tracks on this deluxe edition.
The Sound of The Smiths is like hearing my favorite Manchester band with new ears. The Smiths as nature intended. It takes me back to first time I ever heard The Smiths—some of you may remember I have written about it many times for Treble, in the back of mi hermano’s car, as he was playing a cassette version of The Queen is Dead. The song was “There is a Light that Never Goes Out.” And from the opening notes and lyrics of “Take me out tonight…” my life changed. It seems like every year since that moment, my connection to my beloved The Smiths grows more deeply and devotedly. They were the ones—Morrissey, Marr, Rourke and Joyce—whose music was there for me when I was a recluse alone in my room with only their songs as my only friend. Their songs are still the soundtrack to my younger days. Those times, although filled with days and nights of melancholy and longing, will always be a part of me.
As I have grown, The Smiths’ music remains a constant in my ever changing blissful life. The Sound of the Smiths is exempt from my usual lambasting of compilations released by successful bands. It’s the songs and the sound of these songs that save The Sound of The Smiths from being just another repackaged album. This remastering is something that needed to be done to the canon of one of my favorite bands. With The Beatles reissues looming around the horizon, The Smiths are equally as worthy of remastering, perhaps even more so. Being a product of their time, the ’80s was an era of disillusionment, which The Smiths reflected in such songs as “Last Night I Dreamt that Somebody Loved Me” and “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore.” The Smiths were our saviors from our sadness and static lives. Through Morrissey’s lyrical dreams, The Smiths gave us hope through these songs that still remain as vibrant and timeless, more so than when we first laid ears to them many years before.
So what songs did Morrissey and Marr select for The Sound of The Smiths, you ask? It’s every song from the magnificent Singles CD that came out in 1995 plus “Still Ill,” “Nowhere Fast,” ” Barbarism Begins at Home,” “The Headmaster Ritual” and “You Just Haven’t Earned it Yet Baby” round up disc one. Disc two has some rarities, including a cover of James’ “What’s the World,” as well as live versions of “Meat is Murder,” “Handsome Devil” and “London” from live album Rank. You’ll also find “Pretty Girls Make Graves” from the often bootlegged and unreleased Troy Tate album sessions. The title track from my favorite Smiths album “The Queen is Dead” sounds more powerfully poetic than ever before. You will hear the difference in: Morrissey’s wailing vocals on “Hand in Glove” and “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side,” Johnny Marr’s echoing guitar greatness on “How Soon is Now,” Andy Rourke’s funked out bass lines in “Barbarism Begins at Home” and Mike Joyce’s signature backbeat on the Peel Session version of “What Difference Does it Make?”, all restored to their original sonic brilliance
But I must add, even though I am advocating purchasing The Sound of The Smiths, Morrissey and Marr have left out some of the rarest of gems. They’re not all here. For instance, where are the complete Peel Sessions? What about sonic artifacts like “Jeanne” with The Smiths backing Sandie Shaw? What about the complete version of “Rubber Ring/Asleep,” unedited in eight minutes of pure beautiful genius, as found on the original 12-inch single of The Boy with the Thorn in his Side? What about the rest of songs missing from the October 26, 1986 National Ballroom show in Kilburn as heard on the Rank disc (including my favorite “There is a Light that Never Goes Out”)? What about the famed unedited `director’s cut’ of “The Queen is Dead” as described brilliantly by Simon Goddard on the definitive book on The Smiths, their songs and the recording sessions, “The Songs that Saved your Life?” And where are the complete Troy Tate Sessions?
Alas, I may be harder to please than your normal Smiths fan, but that’s because of their status as one of the most influence bands of our generation. I expect only the best for us, the die-hard fans in Smithsdom. Besides the long rumored anthologized box set, what I’m really waiting for are the original albums, The Smiths, Meat is Murder, The Queen is Dead and Strangeways Here We Come, all four of these brilliant LPs digitally remastered like this stellar compilation. The Sound of the Smiths is the first step in cementing the legacy of one of my favorite bands ever. This is how they were supposed to sound, in all of their glory in these songs that continue to save our lives. Go back to the old house again and relive the splendor of our beloved The Smiths all over again.
The Smiths – Hatful of Hollow
The Smiths – Singles
The Smiths – Louder Than Bombs