Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Vinyl Vednesday 11/3/2010

[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick-measuring contest, but it usually turns out that way. Today’s edition is Manchester-themed to tie in with my Endless Vacation story, which means it’s all about The Smiths. “OHHHHH THIS CHAAAAARRRRMIIING MAAAAAA-HA-HAAAAAN.” E-mail with your own big finds!]

Records: The Smith’s The Queen is Dead (1986) on black, Louder Than Bombs (1987) on black, and Strangeways, Here We Come (1987) on black. “Because black is how I feel on the inside.”

Place of Purchase: All three came from Hideaway Music in Chestnut Hill. They cater to baby boomer music, which means classic rock is massively overpriced and anything released from the ’80s and beyond is cheap. I probably would have paid three times as much for these records if I went to, say, a.k.a music.

Thoughts: Like a lot of young, unhappy people, I fell in love with The Smiths in high school. I used to work at Sam Goody and, thanks to my 40 percent off employee discount, was able to check out lots of music on the cheap. I bought The Smith’s The Queen is Dead because I’d read good things about the band in Spin and because we simply had a copy of that album. I didn’t know at the time that it would lead me on one of those intensely emotional journeys that music is capable of, that I was starting with the best Smiths record, or that “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” is totally the best song ever no wait it’s “I Know It’s Over” or hrm maybe the title track. Anyway, seven years later, this record still hits hard.

Almost as powerful is Louder Than Bombs, a American singles/B-sides compilation that wound up becoming the definitive Smiths rarities record. A singles collection, it’s packed with peppy numbers like “Ask,” “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby,” and “William, It Was Really Nothing.” These songs feature lead singer Morrissey at his cattiest. There are a few quieter songs as well, like “Asleep” and “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want.” This record is an ideal place to start with The Smiths. The band burned with songs during its brief five-year run, and Bombs houses 24 hits. Unless you want to start with The Queen is Dead, because, really, that’s great too.

The Smiths’ final album, Strangeways, Here We Come was slightly disappointing upon its release. Morrissey had a knack for being maudlin and glib – check out those comments he recently made about China – but Strangeways is at times a bit too silly. Sometimes it’s in the delivery, like on the over-the-top grunting of “A Rush and a Push and the Land is Ours.” Sometimes the topics are just silly (“Death of a Disco Dancer,” “Girlfriend in a Coma”). Yet it’s such an amazing record, and arguably the band’s most rocking. The glam swagger of “I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish” and “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” is infectious. And while I might knock “Disco Dancer” for its subject matter, there’s no denying the song’s epic rock-out coda, so laden with synth and guitar. I later saw Morrissey play this song live, and it was awesome. When people think of The Smiths, they think “fey,” but this group could show some real muscle when it wanted.

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