The Smiths

Vinyl Friday #21: The Smiths “The Smiths”


The Smiths. The loves of my life. My favourite band since I bought this album when I was just turning 15. It was the band that turned my life around in such a dramatic way. A band that changed me like no other. Growing up with only cornfields, cows and hicks (a word I had forgotten existed until this moment), a band that referenced unknown writers and played such intricate, yet accessible music was a revelation. They became my solace in a world I knew I would never fit into. While many bands helped me gain the courage to go out into the world, The Smiths were the band that gave me confidence that somewhere there was a world that I belonged in and I would some day find it.

But there’s something strange about loving the Smiths. It’s something that I mostly noticed when I first studied abroad in London. When I told someone that I loved Morrissey, Marr, Rourke and Joyce people just… stared. I later would understand that saying your favourite band was the Smiths was one of the most cliched things you could say. Apparently at some point the band had had a cultural comeback and it had been something I missed entirely. In some ways it almost became embarrassing to admit my love for them. A band with so much beauty and keep layers became something to not share. This is something I really do hate to admit because I am firm believer in loving whatever the hell you want when it comes to music.

For a long time I stopped listening to the band (which was a dramatic change from my university days when I would listen to each album in its entirety at least once a week). Thankfully there’s plenty of other music in the world to fill my time with, but no band has ever filled my heart the same way the Smiths have. I kept a copy of Simon Goddard’s The Songs That Save Your Life by my bedside table for over five years. Goddard’s book is a song-by-song analysis and backstory to every Smiths’ recording. I read the entire thing then proceeded to read it whenever I wanted to. I don’t think I could stomach doing that for any other band. But I think it’s very much overdue that I write about the debut album from this Manchester band.

The Smiths, along with Strangeways, Here We Come, is a pretty grossly over-looked album for an iconic band. Within recent years, I’ve seen countless articles pop up about how this 1984 album is their worst by far. As a completely biased woman, I can’t possibly pick a “weak” album out of the four. Because each is excellent and crap in different parts and ways. But to say The Smiths is the worst still baffles me even as I write this. But as the story goes, this is really the second version of the album. The first being recorded with producer Troy Tate (which can be listened to on bootleg). The producer on the final product was John Porter. This version of the album was released after being recorded in fits and starts – to no one’s satisfaction.

That being said, I’m quite fond of the way it sounds. It’s quite distinct from the middle two albums and certainly worlds away from the production on the fourth and final release. For the longest time, I never bought and Smiths albums on vinyl. I stuck to constantly playing the CDs I bought at Exclusive Company – I was completely convinced this was a band that I would only buy their albums if I found them used in a shop. I needed to be a part of a longer history of the physical record.

One day I was totally stunned when I saw the complete collection of albums, along with several other “Best Of…”s and Rank at a resale shop. Being pretty young at the time, I didn’t have all the money to buy the complete lot at the time. So I hid the albums. Yes, I was that dick. But it worked. Every two weeks after payday I would return and buy the next piece. Unfortunately, many of them are now damaged beyond playing ability (to put it politely, never ever ever ever ever let a drunk ‘borrow’ your record collection for five months). Thankfully this one survived relatively unscathed. Maybe it’s due to the unpopularity of the album. I’d like to think so because at least the album and I are on the right side of music justice.


Johnny Marr at the O2 Academy Brixton 23/10


This was originally planned to be a review, but after last night there is just no way I could give any professional unbiased opinion on something I became so emotionally attached to. Johnny Marr at the Brixton last night was the concert my whole life had been building up to. That isn’t even a statement of over-exaggeration. I wished so much that I could go back in time and tell 15-year-old me what my life has become, really one of those “it gets better” stories. Instead of crying on my bed to The Smiths I was standing in awe of the very musician that made me fall in love with music.

Marr’s set opened with the title track off his new album Playland – a whirling and powerful tune that was immediately followed by the Smiths classic “Panic”. Now Marr’s voice is nothing like Morrissey, but Morrissey who? He isn’t needed anymore. Johnny could pull off the vocals well enough on his own. In fact, the set included several big singles from the indie band like “Bigmouth Strikes Again” and “Tell Me If You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before”. The nice touches were including the gorgeous “Still Ill” and “There is a Light That Never Goes Out”. During the latter, there was a beautiful and truly touching moment where the crowd sung their sick professions of love acapella: “to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die”.

But while the Smiths tracks were real crowd pleasers, Marr also made sure he promoted his two solo albums (which are very good in their own right). Singles like “Easy Money” and “Upstarts” from his first solo attempt The Messenger are quickly becoming classics. The problem is with going to see many established acts is that often listeners can become bored with the work they aren’t familiar with, but thankfully the set was engaging enough thanks to a truly great guitarist-turned-frontman. Tracks like “Boys Get Straight” and “Generate! Generate!” are a pleasure to listen to live.

After the band took their exit after the set. The crew began setting up a red semi-acoustic guitar which only proved that certain rumors were true. Marr came back on stage to introduce a friend he had known for the past 20 years. Someone who was a great songwriter and a promising future: Mr. Noel Gallagher. Even though most people in the audience were expecting it, they still went wild to see two of Britain’s most iconic guitarists on stage together, and it was really something special.


Gallagher joined for the the last two tracks – a cover of “Lust For Life” (here comes Johnny Yeeeeeen) and a truly incredible live reimagining of “How Soon Is Now”. Even after the final notes faded away and the two friends hugged and left the stage, I waited for something more. Anything more. This was the first show that I had seen in possibly my entire life that I truly felt upset by the ending. It ended perfectly but I just wanted it to never end.

Other than the concert finishing, the only criticism of the night had to be that there should have been more solo work. While much of the audience was waiting for The Smiths tracks, Marr’s career is so much more than that. Thankfully the setlist also included “Getting Away With It” from his work with Bernard Sumner in Electronic. The track showed off a bit of the depth that the guitarist’s back catalogue has.

If anything, Marr only continues to prove himself as a great musician. Not only has a guitarist, but as someone who can lead a band. Last night revived the dead inside me and reminded me what it’s like to love music but to be truly moved by it, and that’s a very special thing to achieve.





Hot town, summer in the city

AgentOrangeNow I’ve got less than a month until I take my first trip State-side since September. That means I haven’t stopped thinking about my visit for weeks. Unfortunately, Wisconsin still seems to be clinging onto that terrible weather, but I’m praying for blue skies and warm weather for my journey in early June. Here in London we’ve had quite a mix, but there have already been a few lovely hot days out. Summer has pretty much arrived in Britain.

Since we can deem this weeks as ‘summer’ (especially since I haven’t had a class since early April now that I’m working independently), it’s time to put away those somber tunes of Winter and dust off the jackets of Summer listening. For more than five years, I have carried the same three albums in my old Ford. These are the albums I swear by as usually I don’t listen to much else when the scorching sun keeps me hidden away inside.

1. The Smiths ‘Strangeways, Here We Come’

Although usually ranked as the least favourite of many Smiths fans, ‘Strangeways’ is still magic in its own right (and a personal best, stated by both Mozzer and Marr). The fourth album by the Manchester band is filled with some of their most popular singles like ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ and ‘Stop Me If You Think You’ve Head This One Before.’ But I think it’s tracks like the sweet closer ‘I Won’t Share You’ that make this album sound special. It’s the breathiness and light that makes this album the most listenable in the summer. Save your cemetery gates and poets for days more rainy.

2. Agent Orange ‘Living in Darkness’

Call it cliche, but summers, beaches and surf music go hand in hand. Surf punk if we want to even do things better. Orange County punkers Agent Orange made the perfect album with ‘Living in Darkness’ in 1981 (although I keep the reissue on hand just because there’s more to love). There’s a clever mix of punk gold like the title track and the furious ‘Bloodstains’ with the So Cal flavour of covers of ‘Miserlou,’ ‘Pipeline’ and ‘Mr. Moto.’ It’s a crowd favourite when you’re blasting this in a furious summer traffic jam.

And mostly I am such a fan of drummer Scott Miller’s sweater.

3. Roxy Music ‘Avalon’

The non-funky stuff of Roxy Music makes up what is possibly my favourite album ever. It’s dreamy, airy, sexy and every bit of my ideal perfection. I find words difficult when it comes to why and how I love it. The reasons are probably something similar to why people love summer: there’s a lightness to the atmosphere and it soars giving a sense of effortlessness. Max Brooks even uses ‘Avalon’ in one of my favourite books, World War Z. A student sings the title track before the battle of the five colleges to bring hope to the defenders. I couldn’t think of a better use for it.

The album also includes two of my favourite instrumentals on any pop album, ‘India’ and ‘Tara’. I often just listen to them both on repeat. Short bursts of gold.

So as summer draws near, what will you be listening to?

I’ll meet you at the Cemetry Gates

I love cemeteries. I really do. There’s something tranquil about sharing a nice walk with a few hundred corpses. Back home my best friends and I even have a couple that we like to occasionally visit. But London is home to one of the most gorgeous cemeteries ever. Highgate Cemetery in North London is well worth the trip from south of the Thames.

The Cemetery boasts being the spiritual resting place for the likes Karl Marx, Malcolm McLaren and author Douglas Adams. Even though London’s Spring hasn’t bloomed yet, there was still such a gorgeous sight to see when my boyfriend and I visited on Wednesday. I took plenty of pictures and felt completely at rest for the first time during this crazy semester.

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Always and forever the best piece of music for a nice spring walk through the cemetery is the Smiths’ “Cemetry Gates.” I still don’t understand the misspelling in the title, but I always enjoy the subtly of the mistake. I love listening to The Queen is Dead at this time of the year. I have faith that there will be a rebirth of happiness. Strange to find it hiding in the a cemetery.

Murder, misery and Marr: ‘The Smiths’ 30 years on

smiths I must have been six or seven the first time I heard The Smiths. I hated them. ‘How Soon as Now’ was on a soundtrack disc that my older sister had. It was dark and dreary and my young self couldn’t handle it. Darkness was not a friend.

Less than a decade later, I was a sad, melancholy teenager. Everything was different. Darkness was more than an acquaintance that I was becoming familiar with. It seems to be by luck that I revisited The Smiths.

When you’re 15, you take all the wrong things very seriously.

Many parts of this album served as an awakening. Find the corners of yourself that you didn’t know existed. I began asking myself, “Am I still ill?” What the hell did that even mean to teenage me? I learned who Myra Hindley and Ian Brady were and was introduced to a whole new decade of British history.

But really, The Smiths were the first band I really, truly obsessed over. ‘The Smiths’ changed the way music could be. It was complex, thoughtful, but spewing emotional misery unlike anything ever heard before. And those first two singles: that first crash of “Hand in Glove” and that first  of jangling guitar in “This Charming Man” both still strike a feeling that still hasn’t soften over the years.

‘The Smiths’ is 30-years-old on Friday. Within those three decades, the album is still as prolific as ever – even though some of us grow up and grow out of our disciple robes. Morrissey’s words still speaks to those lost and lonely kind – where ever they are.

Long live The Smiths. May this fucking album live on always.myraandian

Apples, peaches, pumpkin tart (made with shortcrust pastry)

It’s easy to push reality television aside and call it “idiotic” or “frivolous.” Well okay, there is really a lot of awful shit out there. For some reason, though, baking shows seem to be the exception. The Great British Bake Off is one of my favorite shows ever for no other explanation other than to look at those luscious cakes and biscuits.

Tonight is the finale of the fourth season. It’s been another solid journey of middle-class eccentrics. Finalists Ruby, Kimberley and Francis are all deserving winners and it will be interesting to see who wins tonight. For some reason, the winner always likes to throw everyone for a loop – like the only part of the competition that matters is that last challenge. Maybe I’m just shit at predictions.

There’s a charm in this show that is really undeniable. There’s something fascinating about watching someone bake something that you don’t always get with other competition-based reality shows. Maybe it’s because food is something you can share. Food, like music, is to everyone’s specific tastes, but not too many people can live without either.

My boyfriend jokingly suggested I come up with a song for each finalist. Other than “Hot Cross Buns” and “Do You Know the Muffin Man?” my knowledge of baking songs is about…nonexistent. But a rather short and unusual playlist would include:

  1. “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”  for constantly brooding university student Ruby
  2. “Cinnamon Girl” by Neil Young for spice-loving Kimberley
  3. “Sugar, Sugar” for the delightful Francis (because there really are no songs for making breads and cakes into matchboxes and bars of soap)

But if you prefer a more traditional bake, stick to Jay & the Techniques’ “Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie.”