Newest Review: ... grab me as much as others have on the previous albums, but play it right through from start to finish and I find I appreciate it more. ... more
Finishing what they started.
Strangeways Here We Come - The Smiths
Member Name: jeffjen
Strangeways Here We Come - The Smiths
Advantages: It's The Smiths, so it's good!
Disadvantages: Not their best album, but still good. A couple of weak points.
Because of this, it surprised me to read not that long ago that both Morrissey and Marr cite this 1987 album as their favourite and I wondered if that fact is actually true. It certainly seems strange to me that Johnny Marr would find an album which he never finished recording to be his favourite. It can't exactly have been a happy time and I would have presumed one of the earlier albums would have been the preferred choice when discussing favourites.
However, this is The Smiths and being different is what they did so well, whilst having a certain realism about the songs and in particular the lyrics, with the clever, twisted wit almost always at the forefront.
Strangeways Here We Come is not my personal favourite album by The Smiths, but it does have a certain charm and uniqueness about it, which sets it apart from the others. Maybe it is because the album has a finality about it, in that all the songs here seem to be about saying goodbye in one way or another or maybe because the musical style takes a slight shift in direction in places.
In my opinion it is an album of highs and lows, but listening to it from start to finish I always think I maybe shouldn't like this as much as I do, but can't exactly say why. Certainly when I listen to the tracks individually, some of them don't grab me as much as others have on the previous albums, but play it right through from start to finish and I find I appreciate it more.
Following their legendary 'The Queen is Dead' was not going to be an easy task and The Smiths were also on the verge of breaking America at that time because of The Queen Is Dead's critical acclaim. All should have been good at this time, but like all good things it sadly came to an end.
Strangeways Here We Come opens with 'Rush And A Push And The Land Is Ours' and I always recall my initial surprise on first hearing this, as whilst it features no guitar it still includes a great melody featuring a harpsichord and marimba. Was this going to be part of a new direction for The Smiths? Although we will never know, I do wonder where they would have taken their music if they had continued and listening to this opener always brings those thoughts to mind.
I think most folk will remember 'Girlfriend In A Coma' which is what I define as traditional Smiths. A jangly melody with a morose Morrissey declaring "there were times when I could have murdered her" but then showing he has a soft side by following up with "but you know, I would hate anything to happen to her."
This track always makes me smile as soon as I hear the opening lyrics "girlfriend in a coma, I know, I know... it's serious" as there was nobody writing lyrics like Morrissey. His self-depracating wit and observations are a big part of what made The Smiths unique and why they can never be imitated.
'Stop Me If You Think Heard This One Before' is a classic Smiths track, not only because of the trademark jangling guitar courtesy of Marr, but because its melody is uplifting and yet the lyrics tell a different story as Morrissey sings that nothing's changed, he just loves you slightly less than he did before and paints a gruesome picture of "friday night in out-patients." The man is a genius at this stuff, it seems so simple you wonder why it was never done before, yet he left many song-writers scratching their heads.
'I Started Something I Couldn't Finish' has a bassline which reminds me of one of my favourite Smiths tracks: 'What Difference Does It Make.' Here Morrissey tells of "typical me, typical me, typical me" and whilst the track is typically The Smiths, I am not keen on the jazzed up sound here. I really like the track but would prefer it to be stripped back a bit and not feature the saxophone, just so I could enjoy it more.
'Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me' is a musical treat to sit back and drift off to. Morrissey's voice has an almost hypnotic quality here but it is the music which makes this such a good track in my opinion.
Indeed the second part of the album sees Morrissey seemingly getting much more personal, "I've come to wish you an 'Unhappy Birthday'," being a fine example as is 'Paint A Vulgar Picture' but whilst these could be a pointed attack on Marr, Morrissey is also having a pop at the entire music industry here. That aside, the latter in particular is a joy to listen to and the added applause at the end seems very apt.
The simplistic acoustic closing track 'I Won't Share You', is a very fitting end to the album and indeed The Smiths, with lyrics possibly reflecting Morrissey and Marr's split. I think of this as The Smiths swan song but it is also one of my favourite tracks, which I love more with every listen if that's possible.
Strangeways Here We Come is a good album but I would disgree that it is their best. Having said that, there isn't anything to really dislike in my opinion, except maybe 'Death Of A Disco Dancer' which I have never been so keen on and features Morrissey's one and only instrumental contribution where he randomly hits the keys at the end. So maybe it is the 'it's all over' theme running through this album signifying the end of what was great and good, which makes it more difficult for me to enjoy than their previous albums. I do realise however, that The Smiths couldn't go on without Johhny Marr, he was almost as much a focus of the band as Morrissey in my opinion and whilst I mourned the end of The Smiths, I don't think it would have been right for them to continue without him.
Enjoy the memories!
A Rush and a Push and the Land Is Ours
I Started Something I Couldn't Finish
Death of a Disco Dancer
Girlfriend in a Coma
Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before
Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me
Paint a Vulgar Picture
Death at One's Elbow
I Won't Share You
Produced by Johnny Marr, Morrissey and Stephen Street.
Summary: The Smiths swan song.