Friday, October 22, 2010

365- Louder than Bombs- Keeping up with the Smiths.

Album: Louder than Bombs
Artist: The Smiths
Year: 1987
Genre: Pop


  1. Is It Really So Strange?
  2. Sheila Take a Bow
  3. Shoplifters of the World Unite
  4. Sweet and Tender Hooligan
  5. Half a Person
  6. London
  7. Panic
  8. Girl Afraid
  9. Shakespeare's Sister
  10. William, It Was Really Nothing
  11. You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby
  12. Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now
  13. Ask
  14. Golden Lights
  15. Oscillate Wildly
  16. These Things Take Time
  17. Rubber Ring
  18. Back to the Old House
  19. Hand in Glove
  20. Stretch Out and Wait
  21. Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want
  22. This Night Has Opened My Eyes
  23. Unloveable
  24. Asleep

I've already reviewed one Smiths album and I failed to see what the fuss was about. I'm aware of the adoration that the band enjoys around the world but listening to an earlier release I just couldn't see the point. I said at the time that I'd approach later releases with an open mind. Now in the midst of the 300's we've come across another release by one of the England's favourite bands. but unlike the previous entry Louder than bombs isn't an album, it's a collection of rarities and lost tracks designed to allow die-hard Smiths fans to fill the gaps in their music collection. Consequently it's a hodge podge of non-album singles, B sides and oddments. The general effect is widely regarded by Smiths fans as a "for completists only" release. Granted most Smiths fans are such completists they'd pay good money for a recording of Morrisseys voicemail message but that still doesn't change the fact that this album isn't a considered release that the band put together as a single work of art.

That being said this album does contain a handful of singles that broke into the top 20 in the UK and even has a song that the writers of Rolling Stone Magazine decided was one of the 500 greatest of all time (William, It Was Really Nothing which appeared at number 425 on the list). While there might be B-sides amongst the hits these aren't just throwaway demos and album outcasts and Smiths fans would regard even the lowliest of B-sides as better than most band's biggest chart-toppers (in fact they would probably put every Smiths' song in the top 500 of all time and pad out any gaps with voicemail messages).

So did listening to Louder than bombs start to turn me onto Mozza and his former bandmates? Have I joined the ranks of Smith-obsessives and ardent devotees?


To be honest their appeal is still a bit of a mystery although if it helps I'm starting to narrow down what I find a bit alienating. I've been listening to some Johnny Cash lately and I can't help but think he's got one of the greatest voices ever. Cash sings like a kind of god and he's so good I could listen to him read my own reviews and not get put off by the appalling similes. At the same time I've had to listen to a lot of the Police which means enduring Sting whose singing really gets on my tits. Cash- Good, Sting-Bad. Anyone care to join me in posing a theory? The voices I enjoy are deep and sonorous. They possess the sort of depth which can only be inhabited by those fish with glowing lights on their head. I've recently enjoyed Tom Waits for the same reason. Sting on the other hand is a bit high-pitched and whiny. Morrissey usually sings at a higher pitch except for times when he decides to go even further up the range into a falsetto. I'm no fan of his voice at his normal register but when he's trying to launch his vocals into space I find it really grating. There are those that rave about Johnny Marr as a guitarist and I have to confess I really enjoyed his work with Modest Mouse. But on these tracks there just doesn't' seem to be much to get excited about. He doesn't prove his agility on the six-strings enough to distract you from Morrissey's voice.

I spent a lot of time listening to the A-sides on this compilation and I've reached the conclusion that your love or lack of love for the Smiths' is going to depend on your appreciation of Morriseys' voice. If you're someone who loves a higher vocal range then you're predisposed to enjoy the Smiths. But if high vocals are a low point on a medium for you then there's not enough to compensate.

Highlight: Ask
Lowlight: Hand in Glove

Influenced by: Meloncholy and angst.
Influenced: A generation of English teenagers.

Favourite Amazon customer Review Quote: "Shoplifters of the world Unite is one my favorites, but do shoplifters really have the moral fortitude to unite, would they trust each other, I doubt beyond the mayhem of a day. Although shoplifting can be fun, especially for smokes or alchohol."

So did you enjoy this or would you rather turn the volume down and listen to the bombs instead.


  1. How many other Smiths albums are there on the list? I keep hearing of their greatness and am interested to check them out.

    Of interest, I have a book you may want to read that is similar to this 500 Horizons project. The book you read is Rolling Stones' 500 Greatest Albums -- my book (well, not MINE) is "1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die." Of course, doing THAT would take forever and I don't want you to kill yourself doing this. But I think the book may be on interest for you to read (it lists albums, chronologically, from 1955 to 2005/2007 depending on the edition).

  2. Ryan,

    Thanks for reading and commenting. There are two more Smiths albums coming up in the list so they've got two more chances to win me over.

    Thanks for the tip-off about 1001 albums. I've got a copy on my desk and I've often looked at it and wondered if it might make some good blogging material. I'm guessing when I reach the top album on this list I'll be wanting to take a break for a while.

  3. The only thing I know about the Smiths are the references to them on ISIHAC. Should I know more or just stay with that?

  4. Surprisingly, this album flows really well in sequence, especially since its a compilation album (it has a beginning(!) [Is It Really So Strange? is a great opening song] middle and end.) You know what? It actually may be my second favourite Smiths album (obviously after The Queen Is Dead). Love The Smiths!