Saturday, 27 November 2010



The Queen Is Dead is a fascinating record.  It is multilayered and speaks with as many personalities.  It holds in its hands the power to be devastating tapping direct into underdog emotions, describing and harnessing in a manner that brings purpose to bleak situations.  It is a record about drawing strength in the face of desperation and so much more.

As an experiment today I will listen, analyse and attempt to review this record just after a break up has occurred and my moments are raw.

The third Smiths studio album is a bleak and damning excursion coupled with emotionally absurd humour.  As with so much of their material there are a lot of laughs if you look for them.  Sure there is loneliness and melancholy but Morrissey makes it a shared experience offering opportunity to at least lighten a load a little.  And coupled with that is an amazing base layer provided by Marr running ragged and wayward in a most efficient fashion.  It is expansive in its pessimism

The original name of the album was to be “Margaret On The Guillotine” tapping into the anti-Maggie sentiments of the era.  Of course such a title would be perceived as treason in certain sections.  As if “The Queen Is Dead” sounds any less aggressive.  Even in the eighties Morrissey was already pining for better times.

“Take me back to dear old blighty.”

It is actually the voice of Cicely Courtneidge that is heard first singing as an excerpt of a 1916 song about four soldiers longing to return home from the trenches of war-torn France.  With that Morrissey is soon setting up shop and charging into action offering a history lesson quizzing “has the world changed or have I changed?”  He understands legacy if not solution while the adjoining sonics merge sensually offering a piping pulse.  “The Queen Is Dead”, even back then.  On the other hand Courtneidge was the original mum in On The Buses.  Here nostalgia is currency paying for an exhilarating passage.

Intuition was the key.

This work is broad and scatological.  For every scathing moment there is a sympathetic one.  For every downbeat gesture of solace there is an upbeat execution.

And upbeat didn’t necessarily always work with the near country cheese of “Vicar In A Tutu” bounding along and the lumbering “Frankly, Mr Shankly” only being saved by the snarling sentiments in Morrissey’s words.  At the time he appeared to hate Geoff Travis as much as normal people hate Simon Cowell now.  Then again these two songs have been described as “legs-in-the-air comedy”.  The other happy sounding track arrived in “Cemetry Gates” and its carefree skip around graves both physical and metaphorical.  With Oscar Wilde on your side, why not?

The other side winding track was the single “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side” which coupled with “Bigmouth Strikes Again” served as Morrissey addressing the industry in which he operated and the art he feared misappropriated.  On defensive mode it is something of a confused struggle and dare I say a root of ones bitterness.

Northern England is well represented on this record.  This is not an album that could or would be made be committee.  And in that I mean trends and fads took longer to reach Manchester, if at all.  This is original material not fashionite.

When asked by Tony Wilson why he wanted to be a pop star Morrissey answered “many reasons, it doesn’t make life worse”.  Damn, this was actually pop music.

“Why are you alone tonight?”

Back to my broken heart and allowing me to wallow this evening is “I Know It’s Over” and the sensation of being suffocated by the pain of separation.  As Morrissey sings “I can feel the soil falling over my head” the ending of this relationship does indeed feel like being buried alive.  This could kill me.  We all wallow.

“If a double decker bus…”

And now in the aftermath I can only hold onto the memories, hold onto a torch.  For that I have “There Is A Light That Will Never Go Out”.  A lesser man might send a departed love a link to this song.  Of course it’s a gesture that only ever works in the movies but Morrissey being Morrissey he actually pulls it off in this track making it seem almost acceptable to pine in requited fashion.  Quite frankly (Mr Shankly), what else is there a Smiths fan could/can do?

“I have just discovered.”

The album closes with “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others” which too feels something of an ode to my exiting love with her being big boned and all.  Let’s just say that this is a record that explicitly speaks to me and for me.

In 1986 when the record came out I was just discovering football via Liverpool FC, Jan Molby and Mexico 86.  I had no idea that The Smiths existed being only nine years old.  Nine years later however I worshipped the band.  Too little, too late.

Rough Trade released the record with full knowledge that the band was leaving the label.  It reached number 2 in the album charts, second only to “So” by Peter Gabriel.

Morrissey was quoted as saying writing was an “absolute physical necessity”.

I live in a bed-sit.

Thesaurus moment: witch.

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