Sound — 8
The Smiths are one of the better known bands of the 80's/early 90's, and are probably one of the last great 'singles' bands. Bridging the gap between pop and rock, the infectious guitar of Marr, with the doleful crooning of Morrissey across the top make for a unique experience into the dark psyche of the Mozfather. This album is a collection of their singles, which at over 20 tracks is no mean feat, and is perfect for listeners wanting to get into the Smiths. Showing off the prodigious genre-stretching songwriting talents of the Morrissey/Marr duo, it ranges from sincere acoustic ballads ('I Know It's Over', 'Please, Please, Please...'), to perfect jangle-pop ('This Charming Man'), to their darker, mournful side ('Last Night I Dreamt...', 'Heaven Knows...'), which to me is their best aspect. The Smiths are the only band I know which bridge all times and emotions, from breakup songs to just-got-laid-and-in-a-good-mood songs. The production also adds heavily to the album, with all instruments shining through the mix clearly, thanks to the then-highly unusual and unique style of production (trebly guitar, bassy bass and midrange vocals).
Lyrics — 10
Ok, so I have to admit I'm a big fan of Morrissey's lyrics. Even if the music were not as stunning as it is, I have no doubt the lyrics would keep the main strength of the songs together. At times both sarcastic and witty, baleful and vindictive, yet still unhappy and joyful, there can be no doubt why Mozza has become the figurehead of a movement of dis-affected teens. I'm not usually one to pretend I can relate to the lyrics of bands, but the genuine emotion in some of his songs is incredible (when I went to see him at Leedsfest 2004 he was frankly and openly emotional in all of his songs, at times having to turn away from the audience in an effort to hide the tears welling up in his eyes. A grown man crying in front of 100,000 people? Frank and open doesn't even cover it.). The other review has already gone over some of his better lyrics, but I would like to add some of my personal favourites to the list: "No, it's not like any other love. This one's different, because it's us"- Hand In Glove. "If you're so very good-looking, why do you sleep alone tonight? "- I Know It's Over.
Overall Impression — 8
Right, I'm kinda' mixed about this album overall. It is a brilliant album, from one of my favourite bands, and I would like to say every song is brilliant. However, it's basically a greatest hits album, so it'd be hard to expect anything less. In my opinion, it's a great album for getting into the Smiths, nearly all their best songs on one CD, but there are a few I feel the album didn't need, for example: the unusually simple, quite shallow (and frankly boring to me) 'Panic', which continues to annoy me by seeming to appear on every album I have by the Smiths, and these prevent me from giving it an all over 5. However, I know other people feel differently, and having been privileged to have seen Morrissey live, playing Smiths songs, I feel I don't have grounds to complain (for the record, he's much less miserable in person). A Smiths reunion tour would be a dream ticket, and I know many other fans that feel the same way. Damn Morrissey/Marr and their stubborness! If it was lost, or stolen (an increasingly high risk due to the amount of people wanting to borrow it) I would more likely get some of their other albums instead, but this record has been on constant play in my stereo for the last few months. These are 'the songs that saved my life', and still as fresh as the day a young Stephen Morrissey donned his quiff and glasses and become the anti-anti-hero, the father of a generation of music, opening the door for such illuminaries as Oasis and their other brit-pop ilk.