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Definitive Albums: The Smiths 'The World Won't Listen' (1987)

The Band with the Thorn in Their Side

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Definitive Albums: The Smiths 'The World Won't Listen' (1987)
Rough Trade

Dear Old Moz, Forever Single

The Smiths —those fanatically-followed, woe-betold Mancunians peddling jangling pop-songs for the weak and weary— were never really an albums band. Sure, The Queen Is Dead forever finds its place teetering near the top of best-albums-of-the-'80s lists, but often that feels like an act of deference, critics still reeling from The Smiths' utter audaciousness. The album's same-named opening salvo is a radical call-to-arms, a song rendered vicious, caustic from the poisonous stew of Conservative, Thatcherite Britain; Morrissey wailing for his nation's fall into a decaying irrelevance. The Queen Is Dead, it must be said, is a great album.

Yet, The World Won't Listen is better. It's not technically an album, but, then again, The Smiths were often a band who seemed most on song when offering single songs unto the world; tunes that stood tall as stand-alone 7"s. In hindsight, it's astonishing how many of their best songs weren't actually on any of their albums. On this record —released in the wake of The Queen Is Dead— there's easily some of the best songs that Morrissey and Marr ever authored. And, in the case of the trio of tracks "Ask," "Panic," and "Shoplifters of the World Unite," The Smiths were often better working outside of the album format.

The Pleasure and the Privilege Is Ours

Placed here, alongside Queen Is Dead classics "There Is a Light that Never Goes Out" and "The Boy with the Thorn in His Side," we get a complete picture of a band at the peak of their game. The patron-saints of indie-pop —emulated and imitated to this day, still— were at an artistic pinnacle from which they could, invariably, only slide.

Where Morrissey long ago earnt the reputation as a moping adolescent's best friend, there's something utterly classical in the tragic love-song scope of "There Is a Light that Never Goes Out." When the rake wit sings "And if a double-decker bus/ Crashes into us/ To die by your side/ Is such a heavenly way to die" in his carried croon, whilst sentimental strings swell up around him, Morrissey's genius is reduced to something achingly beautiful in its sweetly simplicity. Two decades later, the sentiment still carries, clearly, and the music still shines, sweetly.

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