Tuesday, January 23, 2007

"Keats and Yates are on your side"

#10 The Queen Is Dead, The Smiths, Sire Records, 1986

This is the first record in my countdown that I only have in vinyl format. Purchased over a bone-chilling New Year's break in Cincinnati in 2001, The Queen Is Dead LP continues to be my favorite Smiths record, despite my found affection for Strangeways Here I Come and The Smiths. Part of this love comes from having to drop the needle every time I want to hear all the sweetness from the killer tom-tom intro of "The Queen is Dead" to the perfect '80s guitar outro of "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others." The Smiths never shied away from political content and I think that's one of the reasons that I have continued to like them. Morrissey's desire to rid England of its' monarchical legacy has moved all the way from the violent denouncement of "The Queen Is Dead" to 2005's ridiculously good "Irish Heart, English Blood" off of his solo venture You Are the Quarry, a record already lovingly reviewed by Captain Ultra. Musically, this may be the apex for Marr's jagged to shimmery guitar movements and Morrissey's lyrics are at their most acerbic: "Frankly, Mr. Shankly, you are a flatulent pain in the arse." Side 1 closer "Cemetry Gates" is a high school English geek's wet dream, "Never Had No One Never" mopes with the best of them, and the outro of "I Know It's Over" stabs repeatedly at the heart of a scorned lover: "Oh mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head." I might also have to concede that the best Side 2 ever is found here: the brilliant pop flourish and crazed background vocals of "Big Mouth Strikes Again" to the memorable cry-for-help of "The Boy With The Thorn in His Side" to the honky-tonk stomp of "Vicar In A Tutu" to the moody anthem "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" to the danceable reverse misogyny of "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others." Durham's colorful Viva once wrote under the band name on The Smiths section card at Radiofree Records (R.I.P.) this query: "The Greatest Band Ever ?!?" To which, keeping The Queen Is Dead firmly in mind, I reply: "Yes ?!?"

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