Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Inside The Smiths: They're never getting back together - get over it.

In the crowded downtown HMV store, the pulsating guitar intro of “Irish Blood, English Heart” is amplified over the sound system and with immediate detection I’m grinning to myself. Besides the tattooed and pierced twenty-something employee spinning today’s new CD picks, I am perfectly alone in recognizing Morrissey’s renaissance single from 2004’s You Are The Quarry. Today the single plays as the fourth song on his latest recording, yet another Greatest Hits album.

Considering his solo career has spanned twenty years now, Steven Patrick Morrissey is still far from being a North American household name; typically identified as the former lead singer for The Smiths. Under a veil of uncommonness, Morrissey languishes in the safekeeping of his devotees, sanctioned by ex-Smiths’ patriots and a fierce brigade of Latinos. He has become an icon among the survivors of the by-gone 1980’s rave culture and indeed the most successful out of the former Manchester quartette.

Picking up the pieces immediately following the 1987 demise of The Smiths, issuing his first solo album “Viva Hate” in March of the following year, Morrissey contrives a formula of releasing original albums with B-side compilations and best-ofs in between. Now, several record labels later, he still finds it reasonable to pander an eighth compilation – this one under London’s imperial Decca Music Group. The packaging is gorgeous and features a heavenly black and white close up photograph of Moz with eyes wistfully closed – from about ten years ago albeit. But sadly, the song selection here is quite dumbfounding, too cumbersome with material from his last two studio recordings which aren’t the definitive of Morrissey for anyone. When it finally whirls its way through to track 7, we revive the faithful standby “Everyday Is Like Sunday” and three other interchangeable best-knowns. Thank God for the bonus CD, Live At The Hollywood Bowl and that gorgeous packaging. I ached over his oversight of Piccadilly Palare, At Amber, Boxers and my treasured Late Night, Maudlin Street. It’s simply puritanical of him to omit those and include his cover of Patti Smith’s Redondo Beach on a Greatest Hits.

And as if this were all not enough to make me completely despondent, I then subjected myself to watching the lop-sided documentary film Inside The Smiths, Through the Eyes of Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke, which seemed more like an attempt at time travel for the neglected “rhythm section” of the band than an upright documentary. Curiously devoid of any Smiths soundtrack (more royalty quibbling), the most poignant tangible is that Rourke and Joyce come out as the most devoted of Smiths fans. Yet this doesn’t stop me from wincing at their raw refusal to move on with their careers and lives.

The same cannot be said for Morrissey, who may routinely toss in classic Smiths’ songs at live concerts, he emphatically revolts the idea of reuniting. As for his latest and greatest; this Greatest Hits is a pulverization that shows little of his brilliance and proves his contentment in being the commander-in-chief of his own eccentric musical machine. I love him but I’d never recommend this album-I’d stick with the 2001 The Best of Morrissey.
- Stephanie Kiernan

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