Monday, November 10, 2008


The Smiths. Obsessive compulsive music freaks--the type Nick Hornby immortalized in the book High Fidelity--consider these guys the quintessential British indie band of the 1980s. So how did I miss them? Are they any good? I didn't pay much attention the first time through, as I was busy nursing a 1970s hangover that decade, and if I happened to cast a jaundiced eye in their direction I'm sure they would have seemed fey and lightweight compared to the leaden warhorses I was familiar with; this was mere danceable pop, and easily dismissed. Wendy, our resident 1980s expert, discourages such a snap judgment. She grew up with the Smiths, and this music is the soundtrack of her college years (in fact, I think she chose her school thinking the band had something to do with the place) and yes, it may not be my usual esoteric, avant-garde, weirdo, trainspotting sort of music, but it's definitely worth a listen. Point taken.

Ok, once I get past the "eighties-ness" of the sound, I hear a definite British Invasion influence--these are pop songs, after all. Morrissey is a melancholy crooner, completely over the top, but somehow his voice works well with the music of guitar player Johnny Marr. There is something hypnotic about these tunes. And danceable. And darker than I'd expected--I hear a little Joy Division? And the lyrics are clever, I'll grant you that, even if they would make sorrowful Young Werther seem happy-go-lucky. Okay, okay. But they're good. I can't just dismiss them as wounded romantics lost in a wash of synths.

He's strange, this he having a laugh? The hair and campy vibe--what's that all about? Fans are obsessed, and they tell me he just had a big comeback tour. Who knew?

Okay, I like it. I'll give them a couple spins and see if they stick to my besotted brain. It's nice to be turned on to something new--even if it's old. Who knows? Once the spotlight hits the mirror ball maybe we can dance to it.

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