The Jakarta Post
Members of the British band The Smiths (from left to right) are bass player Andy Rourke, guitarist Johnny Marr, singer and lyricist Morrissey and drummer Mike Joyce. (officialsmiths.co.uk/officialsmiths.co.uk)
Compared to the steady stream of Morrissey's outrageous comments on just about any topic under the sun, the news about The Smiths' "partial" reunion barely struck a chord with the majority of the band's devotees. The Guardian newspaper reported on Monday that original members of The Smiths, bass player Andy Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce, plus the short-lived “fifth Smith,” Craig Gannon, are reuniting for a tour and now reworking the band’s catalogue.
But a true Smiths fan has every reason to be skeptical about the prospect of a reunion without the involvement of lead singer Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr, two founding members of the band who conceived much of the band's signature sounds. If anything, Rourke and Joyce have long been considered marginal cast members in The Smiths. It has been widely reported that Morrissey treated Joyce like a mere session musician and gave him only 10 percent of royalties from the band's future sales of their back catalogue.
Both Morrissey and Marr have yet to comment on the reunion plan, but without their role, the concert will likely be a muted affair, and given Morrissey's deteriorating health in the past few years, a full-fledged Smiths reunion is a distant prospect. But until they decide to bury the hatchet and do it again, these are the top five songs from their catalogue that many would spend top dollar to see performed on stage.
1. "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out"
Together with The Cure's Robert Smith, Stephen Patrick Morrissey is probably the only musician alive who could turn misery and misanthropy into a beautiful sentiment, which has long been The Smiths' bread and butter. In "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out," Morrissey outdoes himself by turning a suicidal thought into wistful melancholia that resonates with millions of loners who daydream about escaping from life's drudgery into a mercury-lit London. Marr works his magic with only strums on his acoustic guitar and lilting piano chords that give the songs a dreamy feel.
2. "How Soon Is Now"
There's nothing avant-garde about The Smiths' music, which was founded on the idea of how to wring emotions from the bare essentials of rock. "How Soon Is Now" is The Smiths at their most experimental. The rippling, tremolo-laden riffs that Marr creates for this song take guitar experimentation to its limits and give the song its distinctive sound that would serve as blueprint for indie rock in the next quarter century.
3. "The Hand That Rocks The Cradle"
The genius of Morrissey is that he could turn a song without a chorus into a legitimate pop song that works on so many levels. Throughout the song, Morissey recites lines, sometimes monotonously, about the possibility of relationship without romance. In the background, Marr provides the clean-sounding chime on his guitar that would give The Smiths its signature sound.
4. "William, It Was Really Nothing"
Proof of The Smiths' greatness? Some of their greatest tracks are even treated as B-sides or don't even appear on their full-length record. "How Soon Is Now" was first released as a B-side for "William, It Was Really Nothing," itself a single that never appears on any record, other than its inclusion on the Hatful Of Hollow compilation. In "William, It Was Really Nothing," again Marr leads the way with guitar pyrotechnics that sound as if Chuck Berry were born a Manchester lad.
5. "The Boy With The Thorn on His Side"
Part of the reason The Smiths' The Queen Is Dead is a masterpiece is how well the album is aged. The album's sonics were so well-designed that it sounds like it could have been recorded last year, and nothing captures this better than "The Boy With The Thorn on His Side." The song also happens to be the cheeriest on an otherwise morose record. (mtr)