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5.0 out of 5 stars "It's Time the Tale Were Told."
Back in 1984, when Culture Club, Wham!, and Duran Duran dominated the charts and airwaves, a group of four young Englishmen called the Smiths released their debut on the indie label Rough Trade. Although they recorded only four non-compilation studio albums, this Manchester-based quartet would be remembered as one of the most influential pop bands of all time. "The...
Published on June 11 2004 by The Groove

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2.0 out of 5 stars An interesting beginning
As a Smiths/Morrissey fan, one is almost obligated to rave about this album. I could never really warm up to it. Aside from the excellent songs that became the singles, the other tracks leave me cold. Its shows the promise yet to come, but this one is a little raw for me. It does and will stand as a mile stone of modern alternative music.
Published on July 30 1998 by copieboy@aol.com


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5.0 out of 5 stars "It's Time the Tale Were Told.", June 11 2004
By 
This review is from: The Smiths (Audio CD)
Back in 1984, when Culture Club, Wham!, and Duran Duran dominated the charts and airwaves, a group of four young Englishmen called the Smiths released their debut on the indie label Rough Trade. Although they recorded only four non-compilation studio albums, this Manchester-based quartet would be remembered as one of the most influential pop bands of all time. "The Smiths" is a smashing debut of a classic that was so unique in its flavor and form, that it really couldn't be compared to anything else. The recipe for the group's success was--in addition to John Porter's raw production--its clever and original songwriting. Singer Morrissey's sensitive and thoughtful lyrics and guitarist Johnny Marr's intricate melodies highlighted key tracks such as the opener "Reel Around the Fountain," the catchy "This Charming Man," and the ever-haunting "Hand in Glove." What's more, Morrissey's lyrics tackled some unconventional topics few pop stars in 1984 would bother to broach, from child abuse to homosexuality. "The Smiths" debuted at Number Two on the UK charts upon release, and while it never duplicated the same success stateside, it has quickly gained popularity as an underground classic. Two years later, the band would outdo themselves on their 1986 masterpiece "The Queen Is Dead" before disbanding the following year. Both that album, as well as this stunner of a debut, come highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ignore the Naysayers: It's a Masterpiece, May 28 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Smiths (Audio CD)
This is my favourite Smiths album(not counting compilations). I'm not alone in this either; a Rolling Stone article agreed with me, and so does Mark Simpson, author of 'Saint Morrissey.' (OK, now I probably sound like a Smiths fanatic, but I'm not, I promise; I just happen to like intelligent, accessible, and enthusiastic writing about popular culture!) I admire 'The Queen is Dead,' and 'Strangeways' and 'Meat is Murder' have their many virtues. If you fell in love with 'The Queen is Dead,' it's possible you may not like this as much, because it's quite different. If, however, you liked 'The Queen is Dead' but came away not fully understanding the fuss over this band--try this, as well as (and perhaps first)'Hatful of Hollow,' a radio sessions and B-sides compilation that has better versions of some of these tracks plus more great songs in the same vein.
Popular music history has been unkind to The Smiths' debut album because the band had already generated enormous expectations before they even released an album and because the legendary poor production apparently failed to do justice to the songs' potential as proven in live performances. This is pure dusty, cobwebbed abstraction to those who discovered The Smiths after they split up, like me. I consider the unpolished nature of the production and of Morrissey's riveting and unearthly voice at this stage an aesthetic enhancement, perfect for these songs about romanticized desolation and squalor. The theme of the album (intended or not) is the passage from innocence to experience through sex or trauma (or traumatic sex), conveyed through ambiguous, evocative and suggestive lyrics that hint at kinkiness without ever being vulgar or sensationalistic. The entirely unique imaginative universe Morrissey introduces the listener to manages to convincingly blend the ordinary and the exotic, allowing the listener to identify but still be intrigued. Johnny Marr's haunting, delicate, achingly melancholy compositions beautifully assist in conjuring this universe. No, not every song is a masterpiece--but 'This Charming Man,' 'Still Ill,' and 'Reel Around the Fountain' are, 'The Hand That Rocks the Cradle' and 'Suffer Little Children' are must-hears, 'Miserable Lie,' the album's one rock-out, is an insane experience (sort of 'Helter Skelter' with a hoarse falsetto and opposite lyrical content), and the others are seriously catchy, lyrically original guitar-pop.
There's already plenty of self-mocking irony at work in Morrissey's lyrics, but it's after "Hatful" that his work becomes largely divided into novelty songs and flamboyant melodramas, with some crossover, while Marr becomes increasingly experimental and rocks harder and the production gets slicker. However, this is like arguing about whether The Beatles are better circa 'Revolver' or 'Sgt. Pepper'--buy all the albums, this is one of the greatest bands in pop/rock history.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Early Morrissey, March 16 2004
By 
Matt Poole (Melbourne, Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Smiths (Audio CD)
The Smiths did a couple of things for music. They showed that it was still cool to have guitar in the synth filled 80s popscene, and they showed that music could still make you think and feel.
The sound of the Smiths? Jangly guitar pop, thanks to Johnny Marr and morbid crooning, thanks to Morrissey. As they were on an independent label at the time, rather than a big record company, the sound isn't as manufactured as a lot of contemporary 1980s recordings. It's more real, more raw. The treble and echo heavy production has dated a little, though.
The performance is great. Morrissey sings with passion, a little rawer than later albums, but just as powerful. Johnny Marr is a wizard on the guitar, to be brief. Andy Rourke's bass is particularly catchy, especially on tracks like "This Charming Man". Mike Joyce, the drummer, keeps a tight time as he should, and often adds a great intensity to the songs, such as on "Miserable Lie" and "Hand in Glove".
Morrissey, even at this early stage has witty and evocative lyrics, a combination of compassion and disgust. Lusty girls and passive guys make up a lot of the lyrical content, like on "Reel Around the Fountain", "Miserable Lie", "Pretty Girls Make Graves". Homosexuality features in "Hand in Glove". Unemployment crops up too, on "Still Ill" and "You've Got Everything Now" , (who else would have the guts to sing "I've never had a job because I'm too shy"). Worth a mention are the haunting lyrics of "Suffer Little Children", about the moors murders.
"Fresh lilaced moorland fields
Cannot hide the stolid stench of death"
The sampled child's laughter in that song makes things all the more creepy.
Downsides, the songs are a bit samey musically, in themes, production and style. The tracks "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle" and "I Don't Owe You Anything" aren't that great, just moody and repetitive. Still, us Smiths fans don't mind. You either love them or you hate them. Morrissey's voice, lyrics and attitude are pretty polarizing.
Personally, I like this album better than Queen is Dead, so I'd recommend this to newcomers, though a compilation may be better, as you'd get a taste of everything. For fans, The Smiths self titled is a must, really.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not perfect, but better than almost all other records, Dec 18 2003
This review is from: The Smiths (Audio CD)
I can't remember exactly when I got into Morrissey/Smiths. It certainly has been a while. However, I just recently began to buy their albums, and I figured I would start with this one, being as how it was their debut album and also came first in the chronological order I'll be buying them in. I had already heard close to half the album when I bought it, but it still did not cease to amaze me. From the opening track, the sublime "Reel Around The Fountain," you can already tell that you've got a masterpiece on your hands. I think "Reel Around The Fountain" is probably my favorite song on the album. It really shows off Morrissey's outstanding voice and knack for poetry/songwriting. The following track, "You've Got Everything Now," is not quite as good, but still very energetic and well-written. As with a few of Moz's songs, the lyrics are a tad bit bitter. But, then again, who isn't bitter, eh? The next song, "Miserable Lie," is one of the truly different songs on the album. It starts out rather normal, then about 40 seconds into it, the bands speeds up tremendously and about 2 minutes into it, Moz starts singing in the strangest falsetto-like voice I've ever heard. The lyrics are wonderful, and I also enjoy the weird energy in the song, too, though some Smiths fans seem to think of it as a sort of failed attempt at trying to "rock out." The next song, "Pretty Girls Make Graves," is the song that made me go to record store and buy the album. I have no idea what it is about that song, but I listened to it on repeat for a week, and kept craving more. Moz shows off his vocal abilities once again. The celibate lyrics are also very, umm, interesting. "The Hand That Rocks The Cradle" is also one of the shining moments on the album. Very serene and beautifully executed. I've read on quite a few occasions that it's about child molestation/abuse. Hard to tell. Upon first listen, it sounded like a love song. Then, I dug deeper, and it may very well be about molestation. I really couldn't say. "This Charming Man" is one of the singles that launched the Smiths career, and I still enjoy it much more than their biggest single (Meat Is Murder's "How Soon Is Now?"). Johnny Marr's guitar intro is amazing and I find this to be Moz's shining moment as a singer on the album as well. Song 7, "Still Ill," is one of the more depressing stereotypical Moz mope songs on the album. Still amazingly well-written and I'm a sucker for depressing anyway. "Hand In Glove," the wonderful song about the "homosexual experience" is also a shining moment on the album. Wonderfully well-written. "What Difference Does It Make?" comes next. Certainly not one of my favorites, but it's still quite good. I don't care too much for Morrissey's voice in this one. "I Don't Owe You Anything" is my least favorite song on the album. It's certainly not a bad song, but just not as good as the others. The final track, "Suffer Little Children" is the final shining moment on the album. Beautifully written about the Moors murders, it seems a fitting tribute to those lost. Also a wonderful name for a song. Well, that's the whole album. Certainly not a bad album to get acquainted with the Smiths. However, if you're new to the band, I would suggest Louder Than Bombs, a 20-some track compilation featuring quite a few of their best songs.
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5.0 out of 5 stars ...to tease, torment and tantalize...!, March 27 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The Smiths (Audio CD)
Back in the day...when MTV showed videos and San Francisco's LIVE 105 played modern rock and hadn't yet sold their syndicated souls to "Loveline" and that infant, Howard Stern...there was music to hear that moved your heart...Quite unusual to hear the lyrical rants of Morrissey in such songs as "This Charming Man" and "Pretty Girls Make Graves," both excellent songs. Unusual and very much welcome.
A song that I feel really doesn't get as much credit as it should on this album is "The Hand That Rocks The Cradle." As is so often the case in their music, the lyrics bend around the guitar arrangements of genius Marr on this track. I'm not quite sure what the meaning of the bloody cleaver is, but the song itself is so beautiful in the story told and the sincerity of Morrissey's voice.
I never really liked "Hand In Glove" and ususally forward it on this and my other Smiths cd's. "Suffer Little Children" is a great track that generated interest in this disgusting episode. I am please that Hindley never had the chance to be set loose on the moors again and passed away in custody.
Occasionally, a co-worker will hear this cd playing when I'm at work. Usually it's during "Miserable Lie" when Morrissey's hitting those high notes. This is followed by a puzzled look and an explanation that what they're hearing is a masterpiece from days past.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Sun Shone Out Of Their Behinds..., March 14 2003
By 
Martin Dawson (Royton, Oldham, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Smiths (Audio CD)
Where to begin? With an album like this? With a band like this?
Well, at the start, I suppose...
The fifteen year old me is on a bus coming back from Manchester having just purchased the 7" vinyl of 'Hand In Glove'. I take the record out of the bag over and over again. Just to look at the cover. The John Peel sessions have whipped me up into a frenzy of anticipation and I get home and play 'Hand In Glove' at least seventeen times and the b-side 'Handsome Devil' thirteen times. It is love.
The Smiths were my band and by the time the debut album came out I fully expected it to be the greatest album of all time. Really. But then the fifteen year old me was disappointed. Why was the production so flat, why were live but unrecordable favourites like 'Miserable Lie' included, where were the songs I loved like 'This Night Has Opened My Eyes'...???
(Un)interesting fact : until the release of this album I always thought that 'This Night Has Opened My Eyes' was, in fact, 'Still Ill' because Peel had introduced then wrongly on the second, I think, session.
Whatever. More years than I like to recall have passed and listening to this album now I'm struck by how wonderful the whole of it is. True, there were better songs on the b-sides of singles then but this is still an all-time great album.
The easiest review would be one where you just quoted Morrissey's lyrics because they are near unbeatable here but then you would have to talk about Johnny Marr being the best guitarist of his generation and how, with hindsight, the production is actually okay and how The Smiths were the greatest band of their era. And so on.
Until you got on to the songs...'Reel Around The Fountain' quotes Shelagh Delaney and is one of the greatest Smiths moments, 'Pretty Girls Make Graves' is actually my favourite and then there is the re-worked 'Hand In Glove'.And so on.
'The Hand That Rocks The Cradle' is another favourite. I love Morrissey's poetry and the way the song just sort of sways along, hypnotic and dreamily beautiful. Simon Goddard in his excellent book on The Smiths, 'Songs That Saved Your Life' traces certain lines back, again, to Shelagh Delaney. Okay, but one thing I have never read anywhere is that the lines " So rattle my bones all over the stones/ I'm only a beggarman who nobody owns..." actually originate in James Joyce's 'Ulysses' when Bloom is going to a funeral of a friend and sees the coffin of a baby en route : "Rattle his bones. All over the stones. Only a pauper. Nobody owns." You don't need me to tell you that Morrissey's appropriation there is genius.
So this isn't the greatest album of all-time but it is a very great one. What else to say? Where do you finish? Where do you end with one of the greatest bands of any era? Okay, I'll say it : The Smiths.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Still fresh and vibrant today, July 24 2002
By 
Bill R. Moore (New York, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Smiths (Audio CD)
It's hard to realize, now that The Smiths enjoy an almost legendary status, just how different this album sounded when it came out. This, the debut album from The Smiths, came out in 1984, a year in which New Wave was king, and even former hard rockers such as Van Halen had taken to crafting synth-pop. Although Johnny Marr's gently rolling guitar riffs were not radically different from British pop that had come before, it was radically different from what was in vogue at the time, and everything about The Smiths - from their image, dress and appearance, to cover art, and, especially, the lyrics and singing of enigmatic lead singer Morrissey - hit you in the face with their sheer vitality, originality, and freshness. Morrissey's lyrics are what really set the band apart - few of the songs followed traditional verse/chorus structures, his lyrical pacings being almost free-flowing at times - and he sang them in the odd croon (it may turn you off at first, but will eventually grow on you) that is distinctly his. He also chose to tackle subjects that were more than the standard rock fare: in addition to delving deep into harrowing portraits of love won and lost and teenage angst, he also dives into such topics as infanticide (Suffer The Little Children), literary adaptations (Reel Around The Fountain), seeming misogyny (Good Girls Make Graves), and a song apparently about homosexuality, or perhaps masturbation (Hand In Glove.) However, the music - not only that of Marr, but also the solid if unshowy rhythm section - perfectly complimented the music, making for a killer combination and, it is often said, perhaps the last great songwriting team in rock. Although The Smiths would go on to make better and more ambitious albums, their debut announced the arrival of a fresh, exciting, original, and invigorating new band, and remains an essential album and snapshot of the 80's to this day.
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5.0 out of 5 stars a tentative first step, April 1 2002
By 
Erline Andrews (Brooklyn, N.Y.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Smiths (Audio CD)
Having heard first the best of/singles compilations, The Queen is Dead, Strangeways Here We Come and a number of Morrissey's solo albums, and having read of Morrissey's extravagant boasts prior to the release of this record, The Smiths was a surprise.
It's so quiet, so introspective, so humble almost.
It crept into my heart slowly, after repeated listens.
The structure of the songs is very simple. Their strength lies primarily in Morrissey's beautiful voice and lyrics. Overall, the latter seem more personal here than on any other Smiths/Morrissey album.
The Smiths is also the most haunting album, made so particularly by Suffer Little Children and The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, two beautiful but almost unbearably disturbing songs.
The 11 songs on The Smiths, with the exception of the last, explore dark, sometimes unsettling aspects of love and relationships.
I'm still learning and I won't call myself an expert by any means, but I can name no one who tackles personal dysfunction - desperation, insecurity, delusion, dependency - with as much honesty and with as sharp a ring of truth as does Morrissey.
Other bands use garish make-up, distorted guitars and vocals and other gimmicks to shock or disturb.
But The Smiths deliver a bigger emotional jolt using impeccable melody and a warm voice singing lyrics like these:
"... a child cries: 'find me, find me, nothing more/We're on a sullen misty moor/We may dead and we may be gone/But we will be right by your side/Until the day you die/This is no easy ride/We will haunt you when you laugh/Yes, you could say we're a team/You might sleep/But you will never dream'" (Suffer Little Children) and
"There'll be blood on the cleaver tonight/When darkness lifts and the room is bright/I'll still be by your side/For you are all that matters/And I'll love you till the day I die/There never need be longing in your eyes/As long as the hand that rock the cradle is mine."
Listen and squirm.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Manchester, so much to answer for ...., Feb. 7 2002
This review is from: The Smiths (Audio CD)
The Smiths were the best musical moment of the 1980s -- I know, I lived through them. This album is probably my favourite, and must be in the canon of amazing debuts: nothing like it before, and nothing since. For one thing, there was the cover art. At at time when most bands favoured monochromatic "new wave" dots and blobs, the covers were sober, nostalgic, personal and iconic. Crushingly vivid colours and their signature style made it exciting just to *see* their albums. In this case, the murky photo of Joe Dellesandro gives a hint of the Morrissey world view and aestheticism, but it's ambiguous and out of context, meaning that the Smiths became very hard to "brand."
But of course the appeal of this record came from its musical beauty. Morrissey's plangent, steady voice was astonishing, but moreso were his lyrics. "I dreamt about you last night, and I fell out of bed twice/ you can pin and mount me, like a butterfly." Reel Around the Fountain still gives me goosebumps -- it's an anthem which evokes not just the usual teen angst, but what is unusual, and sad, and real about it as well.
I love every track, but most of all its wonderful beginning, the glorious insouciance of "Hand In Glove," and the mordant "Suffer Little Children" which evokes the grisly Moors Murders as a foundation myth for Mancusian angst, but also for all of us who were trying to sort out the sixties of our childhoods in the early eighties. Morrissey & Marr, along with Squeeze, were the poets of the eighties, and this cd will give you a rich sense of its virtues, rather than the gelled and synthesised excess most people know.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Debut, Oct. 8 2001
By 
M. Fantino (San Francisco, California USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Smiths (Audio CD)
The Smiths have (and have had for as long as I can remember) such a bizarre following. I admit, I was once one of them, the followers. I, like them, had all the albums and singles on vinyl, and I memorized all the lyrics, I had an all too big poster of Morrissey on my wall, too big for a straight guy like me, etc. etc.
I still like this album, though I never upgraded to CD as I have with the obvious ones (The Queen Is Dead, Meat Is Murder, Strangeways Here We Come). But what I like so much about this album is the rawness. Especially on Miserable Lie. Miserable Lie is more seething and demanding than possibly anything they have ever done since as a band. In Miserable Lie (and Still Ill), one can hear the heavier influences that Morrissey and Marr were always so vocal about; New York Dolls, Warsaw (later, Joy Division), and Sparks.
A year later, The Smiths released a 45rpm with Sandie Shaw in Morrissey's place and The Smiths behind her, Hand In Glove b/w I Don't Owe You Anything. A fantastic rarity. But, here is where it all started. And, so should you if you don't quite know the Smiths yet.
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