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  • Writer's pictureReece Bithrey

Album Of The Week - The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead

(Picture Credit - NME)

We move on from one eighties classic to another with 1986's infamous The Queen Is Dead from The Smiths.

Cover art comes from a scene in French film-noir L'Insoumis or The Unvanquished in English-speaking countries, featuring Alain Delon. It's probably one of the most recognisable album arts of all-time.

Despite it being a ten-track LP, it's one that is relatively short at just thirty-six minutes, but that doesn't detract from how great a collection of songs it is. The opening title track is fast-paced and featured some deeply dark bass notes in the background to complement its sinister nature. Frankly Mr Shankly is pompous and well-balanced in musical delivery and its lyrics refer to the Rough Trade music executive at the time and portray a couple of subliminal digs to him. Cemetry Gates, is typically Morrissey-like in nature. The riff from Johnny Marr is symphonic and hints as a happy tune but it's the lyrical work of Morrissey that turns the song a little darker. The direct contrast of "A dreaded sunny day" is intentional, working as a sarcastic jibe to the press and some critics who called the song-smith "miserable" at the time of this album. Morrissey's cultured side is explored here with references to poets "Keats and Yeats" as well as author Oscar Wilde.

Much like the latter, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out is a song that epitomises The Smiths and particularly Morrissey's lyrical ability. Despite having a somewhat upbeat backing tune, the subject matter is rather haunting and this is exemplified no better than in the chorus: "And if a double-decker bus/Crashes into us/To die by your side/Is such a heavenly way to die". It's a rather emotional and tragic love song but is one that remains a Smiths favourite to this day amongst fans. One of the singles, Bigmouth Strikes Again, is deeply sarcastic with his comparison to Joan Of Arc during the bridge - how his comments have been taken in the wrong way, confirmed by the "I was only joking" that runs throughout the first verse. Interestingly, the backing vocal is credited to someone called Ann Coates, who doesn't actually exist. It's a pseudonymous reference to the Manchester district of Ancoats. The backing vocal is just Morrissey's own voice that has been altered to a higher pitch.

In truth, The Queen Is Dead is one that most Smiths fans should know due to its iconic status and one that has become a favourite of mine in the last few months whilst absolutely playing it to death. If it's not an album you've delved into yet, it's a perfect exemplification of their work and a great introduction on the path to discovering Morrissey's lyrical brilliance.

If you want to pick up a copy, I’ll leave an Amazon link here:

Or, if you’d prefer, here’s a Spotify link:

More musical magnificence to come next week!


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