Released in the summer of 1986 - "The Queen Is Dead" would be the 3rd studio album by the British "jangle" rockers, the Smiths, who originated from Manchester.
This album contains one of my favourite "Smith's" songs of all - "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" which was a songwriting collaboration between guitarist, Johnny Marr, and lyricist, Steven Morrissey. (*Watch music video*)
This album is considered to be one of the defining pop records of the 1980s. It has sold consistently well ever since its initial release.
This is a 2-disc set that contains 24 tracks in all. Disc 2 is a sample of demo versions of the original 10 songs, plus 4 bonus tracks not included on the 1986 release.
“The Queen is Dead” presents The Smiths precisely as they are; a group neurotic commenting on hypocrisy in politics and human relationships. The album begins with the song “The Queen is Dead”, a song covering all sorts of ground and demanding great skill from Morrissey’s vocals. The song is about (as the Sex Pistols song goes) anarchy in the U.K. It features Morrissey’s intensive shifts in vocal pitch, presenting his clear talent as a singer. “Frankly, Mr. Shankly” is a clever song in how the lyrics contradict each other, suggesting the singer is both a hypocrite and a narcissist (favourite topics of The Smiths). Yet the rhyming in the song gives off an overly cute vibe, which contrasts the themes sung about in the song. “I Know It’s Over” is perhaps the greatest Smiths song. It uses Freudian theory in that is projects a person’s guilt on the shadow of the mother. The lyrics are beautifully poetic with a focus on the vocals. As the drums and bass proceed to accumulate in audacity, the song becomes more intense. The song also deals with depression and loneness (more favourite topics of The Smiths). “Never Had No One” isn’t a particularly powerful song, with the showcase being on Johnny Marr’s guitar. “Cemetery Gates” is a song about misfits, and strangely morbid behavior (in the style of Hal Ashby’s film “Harold and Maude). It’s a smaller song, with a more up-beat tune to it. It provide a more unique impression on the rest of The Smiths tracks on this album. “Big Mouth Strikes Again” is a personal song for Morrisey, as he deals with his personal flaws. The song’s lyrics are very clever in how it uses historical references in a modern context (with a focus on Joan of Arc). It’s of the greatest Smiths tracks in how it showcases both Marr’s guitar along with Morrissey’s vocals. “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side” is Morrisey’s favorite Smiths track, since it deals with his battle between the music industry and his self-expression through The Smiths. He’s comparing himself to an innocent boy being victimized by society. It’s not a particularly compelling song, but brings respect to Morrissey’s talent. “Vivcar in a Tutu” is a bizarre song, which comes across as being inspired by drug use. It makes an interesting addition to the album, but is never close to greatness. “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” is Morrissey reflecting on his depression and failed attempts at love. It’s also a cynical song in that it parodies optimism. One might interpret “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” as being about people plaguing themselves with hopeful thoughts and denying the hopeless situations around them; or perhaps Morrissey was feeling genuine hope in his life when he wrote it. It remains a mystery to the listener. It also feature a unique use of a flute, creating an intentionally offbeat tone, reflecting on that offbeat romance Morrissey sings about. “Some Girl Are Bigger Than Others” remains a mystery to me. With lyrics that match the complexity of mediocre modern pop, it lacks any of the magic that makes The Smiths a great band. It may be catchy, but is in no way poignant or complex. Luckily, the rest of the album does match those characteristics. “The Queen is Dead” provides a variety of The Smiths’ talent, any showing lead singer, (Steven Patrick) Morrisey as a man with several witticisms up his sleeve and a clear aversion to happiness.
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