The reason I think that Strangeways, Here We Come is the best Smiths album is because Morrissey finally learned how to sing. Gone were the days when he would moan over the music in an off-key fashion simply because he ran out of words to sing. This time around, he sings in tune. And when he doesn't have lyrics to sing, he backs off and lets the band play. And that is a good thing indeed.
And the band themselves sound more polished than they ever have. In the past, the drums were far too brittle and Johnny Marr's guitar had a little too much high end. On this album, everything is in perfect balance.
Another reason to love this album is that the song A Rush and A Push features a trick that no other Smiths songs has: no guitars! And yet it still, unmistakably, sounds like the Smiths.
Morrissey's lyrics have not lost wit or cynicism as illustrated with Paint A Vulgar Picture. Unhappy Birthday shows his disturbing sense of humor that no one else dares to touch. But Last Night I Dreamt is a rewrite of the sad ballads from the Queen Is Dead and comes across as the album's weakest track.
Johnny Marr was still running the show musically with Stop Me If You've Heard This One and I Started Something. His guitar playing is subtle and bruising at the same time, leaving his mark on the eighties like a tire skid just before leaving the decade behind.
When you look at each individual Smiths album, it just doesn't get any better than this.