The Smiths’ self-titled debut record, released in 1984, make no mistake, is one of the greatest records of all time. It’s absolutely flawless in every way imaginable. Led by Morrissey’s venomous wit (One of the most potent in rock history.) and the innovative guitar work of Johnny Marr, the Smiths really aren’t like any other band that came before them. Their very name evokes such irony as to invoke a smirk upon hearing it. Throughout their relatively short history, the band produced a highly innovative catalog that other bands would try to emulate for decades on down the road.
Top to bottom, this record is packed full of classic tracks. One of the things that becomes very clear on this record is that the Smiths are highly skeptical of what it traditionally meant to be rock stars. Sex? Drugs? They just weren’t as convinced by these things as easily and as enthusiastically as bands that preceded them. The tales these songs tell are quite personal and often invoke an introspective, introverted aura. So, does that mean that this band is weak or lightweight, as has been some of the criticism thrown at them by their detractors? Hell no. These guys are far from being lightweight. They simply rewrote the rule book on what it meant to be a rock band. After all, rock music is about breaking the rules. There are no rules, which is one of the things that this record and this band showed the world.
A specific song, like “Pretty Girls Make Graves”, gives the listener a glimpse into Moz’s (Morrissey’s nickname) deepest, darkest fears. What we are shown is a blank landscape, where isolation is paralyzing and fear is the monster that holds you in chains. Flipping the tried and true rock n’ roll narrative that sex and women should be a prize to chase relentlessly, Moz shares with the listener that maybe sex isn’t such a wonderful thing after all and that, just maybe, an indulgence in sexual escapades unwise could rip a hole through the very fabric of your life. The listener also gets songs like “Reel Around the Fountain”, which, while not a traditional love ballad, is definitely a sweet song about a boy and girl, giving this record an interesting contrast. The end product, ultimately, is a grand question of what is truly worth pursuing in your life. All very interesting stuff for someone named ‘Smith’, no?