The Smiths didn’t last long, but they left behind an amazing legacy and incredible impact. By the time the band recorded The Queen is Dead they were already fraying at the seams, but it didn’t diminish their ability to create amazing tunes.
“Frankly, Mr. Shankly” is Morrissey at his lyrical best, or worst, telling off an imaginary boss. The line about making Christmas cards with the mentally ill took me for a loop the first time I heard it, it was so offbeat. The music is compelling, but quirky, and completely unique.
The incredibly downbeat “I Know It’s Over” positively wallows in rejection and despair, but without sacrificing any of the cutting commentary that Morrissey is so well known for. The sepulchral bass on this one and Morrissey wailing “I can feel the soil falling over my head” is just so satisfying. Oddly enough, I find this song cheers me up every time I listen to it, as if it’s some sort of audio Dorian Gray painting that absorbs unhappiness.
Likewise “Never Had No One Ever” is slow and melancholy, Morrissey lingering over the chorus of “never had no one ever” like a goth Sinatra. The music to this one is glacial but powerful, deceptively simple but it will stick with you.
Things pick up drastically with “Cemetery Gates” with bouncy guitar work from Johnny Marr and a positively poppy beat from Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke. Once again, the lyrics for this one are something you’d find only with The Smiths.
“Bigmouth Strikes Again” may be my favorite cut on the album. Its frenetic guitar and chorus of “now I know how Joan of Arc felt” get stuck in my head for days. The intricate guitar work on this one, particularly the bridge, just floor me. Tongue is firmly in cheek all over the album, but there’s also no doubting Morrissey’s sincerity here.
You won’t hear anything like “Vicar In A Tutu” outside of a Smith’s album. The driving guitar and absurd lyrics, nobody has touched The Smiths, at all. Even Morrissey’s solo work doesn’t quite mesh with The Queen is Dead.
“There is a Light that Never Goes Out” is raw and earnest, particularly compared to “Vicar.” The dreamy music and supremely dark lyrics meld together beautifully.
The Queen is Dead captures The Smiths as a mature band that’s come into its own. Sadly, this wouldn’t last very long, but while it did, they were amazing.