Contact CU Independent staff writer Will Witt at firstname.lastname@example.org
When thinking of the birth of alternative rock-and-roll, no band compares to the impact the Smiths had on the growth of the genre. In the mid-1980s, The Smiths had established themselves as a guitar driven, poetic band whose lyrics, written by Morrissey and Johnny Marr, were more sophisticated than any other band at the time. The song “This Charming Man” received critical acclaim in 1984, and by 1986, the band was setting up to create its masterpiece.
The Queen is Dead is a landmark album in musical history and showcases the creativity and talent the band had achieved.
“Bigmouth Strikes Again” is the album’s lead single and is a message to critics who say that Morrissey, the Smiths vocalist and major songwriter, spoke out of line on any issue he was presented. The song says “I was only joking” as a message that he is not really sorry for what he says, and instead makes fun of people’s accusations by saying it was only a joke.
The song relies heavily on Johnny Marr’s guitar progression and backing vocals by Ann Coates, which is really just Morrissey’s voice tuned to a higher pitch. This song reached No. 26 on the UK singles chart and is the most danceable and exciting song on the album.
“There is a Light That Never Goes Out” details how the protagonist of the song would rather die with the one he loves then lose her and live on. It’s a beautifully crafted song and was the other single off of the album. The poetic lyrics and introspective nature make this a tune that could fit in at a wedding or at a funeral. It is full of love and selflessness, yet is sided with despair and agony. It fits the mood of the rest of the album perfectly and helps tie the entire piece together.
Songs like “Frankly Mr. Shankly” and “Vicar in a Tutu” are some of the weaker ones, with less energy and a flatness in tone. One could argue the lyrics are sophisticated and give insight on their state with the music industry, yet the songs don’t feel like they belong on the album and hold it back from being truly great. “Never Had No One Ever” and “I Know It’s Over” flow better with the rest of the album and create a mood of depression and the unknown.
The opening track, “The Queen is Dead,” is a punk song filled with lyrics about anarchy. The great thing about Morrissey is that he can take an incredibly serious sounding song and add lyrics that are incredibly satirical and a joke. The songwriting by Morrissey and Marr is some of the best at the time, which is intricate, poetic and ironic, yet sometimes Morrissey gets a little pretentious and goes too far. On “Cemetery Gates,” Morrissey speaks on his knowledge of different classic authors, showing off his intellectualism, making him look incredibly vain.
Overall, The Queen is Dead is a masterpiece of depressing yet hopeful songs about love, law and the way Morrissey feels about his life in Britain. Although the album is quite pretentious at times, the music behind the vocals on even the most arrogant of songs is incredibly emotional and full of passion. The lyricism is unlike anything else at the time, and creates a strong bond with the listener, ensnaring them with vivid and sophisticated tales about a protagonist and his struggles.
The Queen is Dead suffers at times with the ability to tie every song on the album together with the next, but the songs that are precise and emotional are the most timeless and passionate songs the Smiths have ever recorded.