There is something difficult about this album. Perhaps it’s the fact it was released after Johnny Marr had officially quit the band? That shouldn’t really affect anything, given that the recording of the album had all taken place before he’d left. Perhaps it just left a nasty taste in the mouth, especially arriving after the superlative ‘Queen Is Dead’ album. Could The Smiths make music of the gods, force everybody to bow down before them, and conquer the world? Uh, no. ‘Strangeways’ is a step back from ‘The Queen Is Dead’ overall, although this is possibly just because of the sheer tension within Smiths ranks at the time. Still, there’s enough fine, great, super fabulous groovy songs here. Quite enough for any sane person. ‘A Rush And A Push And The Land Is Ours’ may not be as dramatic an album opener as ‘The Queen Is Dead’ was, but this is a fine, swoonsome song with lovely Mozza vocals, very playful and a weird Piano type sound, odd percussion all amidst glorious melodies! So, that’s alright then, isn’t it? Johnny gets into gear with ‘I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish’, lots of guitar, here there and everywhere. Again, the vocals of Stephen Patrick Morrissey are crystal clear, playful with lots of clever wordplay lyrically. Handclaps? We’ve got’em. The often much maligned ‘Death Of A Disco Dancer’ appearing as song three, when the truly emotionally brilliant ‘I Know It’s Over’ had appeared in the same place on ‘Queen Is Dead’ may have contributed to this being one of the most overlooked pieces of Smiths brilliance. Yes, ‘Death Of A Disco Dancer’ and brilliance in the same sentence! Glorious vocal ‘moaning’ from Morrissey, Piano played by Morrissey himself! Ok, so he’s no musician as such, and just tinkles around, but added to the rest of this spooky, and quite frankly frightening song, it all works out just dandy. Sigh. The two songs that follow ‘Death Of A Disco Dancer’ on side one up the ‘ante’ yet further. ‘Girlfriend In A Coma’? Smiths by numbers, or Smiths just fabulous, groovy, outtasight! Sorry, I apologise. I don’t know why i’ve come over all Sixties through this review. Maybe because i’ve put off and put off writing this review literally for months without a single clue as to how to approach it. Still, ‘Girlfriend In A Coma’ is ultra lovely and romantic ( yeah…. ) and ‘Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before’ is a damn fine tune to boot, one of the very best Smiths songs.
‘Last Night I Dreamnt That Somebody Loved Me’, oooh! What can I say? This one song, THIS song, is just…… arghhhh! So lovely and sad and romantic – how many times have any of us dreamnt that somebody loved us? So, Morrissey and The Smiths, with a perfect match between lyrics evoking the feeling of being alone and wishing for romance and music sounding suitably grand and desolate. A winner in my house, certainly. The rest of this ‘Strangeways Here We Come’ album goes a little odd, but just about holds its head above water. ‘Unhappy Birthday’ benefits from great production, it sounds clear and special to this day. The song itself isn’t ambitious, just this little jaunty thing with bittersweet and funny lyrics. May the lines hang heavy and deep tonight, indeed! ‘Paint A Vulgar Picture’ sees Johnny rescue a rather ugly Morrissey lyric with haunting guitar tones. ‘Death At Ones Elbow’ is just this little rockabilly song. It would have sounded pretty strange if it’d had been placed on ‘Queen Is Dead’ but it no doubt sounded grand played live. ‘I Won’t Share You’ given the imminent split of The Smiths, and the listener knowing they had split, takes on an extra special resonance all of it’s own. A truly beautiful song, a beautifully imperfect album. Oh, before I sign off. I really *love* the vocals all through ‘I Won’t Share You’. A special moment, indeed.