With various politicians and actors being forced to admit egregious behaviour, we thought we’d make a confession of our own: we think Morrissey is over-rated. Back in the day, we loved The Smiths, especially Johnny Marr’s guitar, but came to think that Morrisey was not a barbed wit in the style of Oscar Wilde but a rather bitter man being mean, and hiding it under the guise of being witty.
Subsequent events have proved us at least half correct: while Johnny Marr is more beloved than the late Queen Mother, gawd bless ‘em both, Morrissey has turned into (as someone recently put it) “Bobby Davro doing Morrissey on Stars In Their Eyes”. We saw Marr, Rourke and Joyce do a Smiths set at a Manchester v Cancer show and were quite happy at Morrissey’s absence.
That’s not to say this album is not their best and does not have some fine moments, as fine as were ever committed to vinyl. Bigmouth Strikes Again is fantastic, as is There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. (We once knew a Smiths fan who was outraged — and we mean outraged — that someone covered There Is A Light. We tend to agree with Scroobius Pip: The Smiths are just a band).
Whether he’s mean or not, Morrissey certainly has a facility with language, and the lyrics, presented here with no song titles, flow and use language better than anyone else, intelligence combined with music hall wit.
Obviously, the band that once wrote “The Church who’ll snatch your money” are now happily selling this as a box set for £30, with no Mp3 download, no notes from Mozzer or Marr and no photos of the band, though there are some demos and a recording of a live show in Boston. “I’d rather be famous than righteous”, maybe.
However: Christmas is coming, and families of Smiths fans will think a nice box set in handsome packaging the perfect gift.