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Coming to Terms With The Smiths

I suppose now’s as good a time as any to confess that it’s only been within the last year or so that I really got into The Smiths.
The Smiths

Josh Hurst recently posted his review of The Sound of the Smiths, a recently released two-disc compilation overseen by none other than Morrissey and Johnny Marr. And it’s sparked a solid discussion — what else? — over on Arts & Faith.

I suppose now’s as good a time as any to confess that it’s only been within the last year or so that I really got into The Smiths. Oh sure, I’ve been aware of them for years, and I’ve even made comparisons to them in my reviews. But I never owned any Smiths music — except for that downloaded copy of “How Soon Is Now?” — until I picked up the “original” Singles compilation.

My ambivalence, I suppose, stems all the way back to high school — supposedly the time that you’re supposed to get into The Smiths. After all, their songs are all about awkwardness, alienation, sarcasm, and longing, the defining qualities of high school. But back then, I was way into The Cure, and my friends and I had this unspoken rule that if you were into The Cure, you couldn’t be into The Smiths. It was one of those dumb high school things, like so many other dumb high school things that we had. Perhaps it was a defense mechanism, so that we didn’t digest too much alienation and mopeyness via our music. More likely, we were just being silly teenagers.

But the bigger reason for my Morrissey deficiency is probably my first girlfriend. No, I won’t go into juicy details, but suffice to say, our break-up was less than wonderful. And the more I think about it, the circumstances surrounding our break-up would’ve been the perfect inspiration for the Smiths’ lyrics. That, combined with her unabashed love for the band, pretty much sealed their fate. But over the years, I’ve heard a number of stellar covers by folks like Low, The Autumns, and Neil Finn. What’s more, other folks — whose musical tastes I considered impeccable — also loved the Mancunians.

So I suppose it was only a matter of time before I warmed up, and though I didn’t exactly become an unabashed devotee, there’s absolutely no way that I can dispute the brilliance of “This Charming Man,” “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now,” “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out,” and “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want.”

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