The Smiths

The Queen is Dead – Deluxe Edi­tion


Re­turn­ing to an al­bum you adored be­yond rea­son in your teens is clearly invit­ing dis­ap­point­ment, but this 1986 Mor­ris­sey-Marr ca­reer peak proves en­dur­ingly rich and re­ward­ing in its punchy, re­mas­tered, ex­panded form.

From that Shake­spearean state-of-the-na­tion rock­beast ti­tle track to the de­cep­tively sunny, trop­i­cal guitar shim­mers of Ceme­try Gates, from the Billy Liar-es­que tart­ness of Frankly Mr Shankly to the glo­ri­ously overblown ro­man­tic self-pity of There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, no other Bri­tish band has ever sounded so si­mul­ta­ne­ously in love with both life and death. Boy ge­niuses, still in their twen­ties, still largely un­soured by the bad blood to come.

A sec­ond disc of demos, B-sides and al­ter­na­tive takes yields no lost clas­sics but plenty of mod­est plea­sures. My snobby teenage self might have hated the mourn­ful trum­pet solo on an early blue­print of Never Had No One Ever, but mid­dle-aged me can ap­pre­ci­ate this rare Smiths ac­knowl­edge­ment of rock’s jazzy, bluesy hin­ter­land. The false starts, vo­cal stum­bles and snatches of stu­dio chat­ter also cast in­ter­est­ing light on a band that al­ways ap­peared so su­per­nat­u­rally self-as­sured.

Fea­tur­ing a pre­vi­ously un­re­leased con­cert record­ing from Bos­ton in 1986, the third CD of­fers a wel­come re­minder of the mus­cle and swag­ger the Smiths could muster out­side the stu­dio. Hand In

Glove and I Want The One I Can’t Have both have real punky bite, while the weep­ing glis­sando cas­cades of That Joke Isn’t Funny Any­more still in­flame ten­der teenage emo­tions decades later.

“Don’t pre­tend,” Mor­ris­sey teases the crowd, “you didn’t like it.” Warm and witty, camp and know­ing, fully in con­trol of his art and his au­di­ence. I miss that bril­liant young man some­times.

Teenage dreams are hard to beat.

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