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Album Review: The Smiths

by Archives November 4, 2008

To Smiths fans, this new compilation may seem like a non-essential addition to the seminal Manchester quartet’s catalogue, but it is too well rounded to be over-looked. The project, overseen by Morrissey and Johnny Marr, offers a respectable collection of b-sides, rarities, live recordings and well-known tunes from their four studio releases. The record is available in a single CD format, or as a deluxe double-CD with the second disc containing more fervent live material.
It’s no surprise the comp starts off with “Hand In Glove,” the band’s first ever single from their 1984 self-titled debut, followed by “This Charming Man” and a requisite Peel Session version of “What Difference Does It Make?”
“How Soon Is Now?” their most famous song, is found at track seven. The short but momentous “Shakespeare’s Sister” follows, and then a three-song suite from The Queen Is Dead. Rounding out side one is “Shoplifter’s Of The World Unite,” which really shouldn’t have been included since it has already shown up on three other Smiths compilations.
On disc two the emphasis on live material is evident, but you also get signature Morrissey moments of despair with “Back To The Old House,” and the wonderful instrumental piece “Oscillate Wildly,” with effective piano lines and inter-play between the rhythm section and Marr’s guitar wizardry. Yet another three-song suite from The Queen Is Dead is then followed by the brutal honesty of Morrissey’s lyrics, “And did you have five seconds to spare? /Then I’ll tell you the story of my life,” in “Half A Person.”
It will be interesting to see how The Sound of The Smiths does with the mp3 generation, which may not be familiar with the band. Considering that The Smiths were at their peak before many Concordia students were even born, their significance and relevance 20 years hence is venerable.
Even though most die-hard fans avoid “best-of” compilations, they can serve to be wonderful introductions to seminal bands like The Smiths. This is exactly the kind of compilation that provides enough insight and material to accurately represent the band’s artistic vision, aesthetic and history. It will surely be regarded as the definitive collection.

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