This, The Smiths' best album, is revered in certain circles as a holy talisman, but even though it's more consistent than usual, it's still a Smiths album. And call me old-fashioned (and if you listen to The Smiths, it's likely you have at least a few neo-Edwardian Luddite tendencies, will it or nay), but I still like to think of albums in terms of sides.
That certainly makes it simpler to categorize the tracks on this release, as on my 1990's cassette the four truly great tracks are bookended at the start/end of Sides One and Two respectively. Inbetween are sandwiched pleasing trifles of throwaways and unpleasing plodders of ponderousity. So, on the one hand there's "Bigmouth Strikes Again", that coasts on the breathless rush of Marr's guitar, but then there's also "Never Had No One Ever", an insufferable ballad in which Morrissey moans about his virginity.
So OK, Side Two's "The Boy With the Thorn in His Side" amounts to more than a throwaway - it's excellent, but ineffably falls just short of classic, due to Stephen Street's soupy psuedo-string backdrop behind what is perfectly adequate-by-itself guitar jangle. A sparer arrangement would've made more sense than the superfluous overproduction, but this was the 80's after all (it's also the reason why I've always preferred the 'live-in-the-studio with minimal overdubs' sound of the band's BBC sessions to any of their studio recordings).
Actually, now that I've thought about it, it's mostly Side One that actively annoys me. The second half of the disc turns out to be fairly consistent - "Vicar in a Tutu" is a goofball throwaway, but at least it skips fruitily along its merry way in barely over 2 minutes.
by Reviewer: Creative Noise
(blogging at Creative Noise