Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Smiths - Meat Is Murder

Meat is Murder (1985) **1/2

The temptation to violate Godwin's Law and take the cheap "Hitler was a vegetarian" shot grows strong within this one.  (It's an urban myth, anyway.)  That trite volley fired, I should say that it's actually an improvement over the debut in terms of sound (new producer Stephen Street, who would prove to be their George Martin for the rest of their short career, actually knows what he's doing), and isn't that bad of a listen.  The problem lies within the songwriting - it's far too threadbare.  I count two classics for the M & M canon "I Want the One I Can't Have" showcases a surgingly power-pop tune with strikingly conventional chorus sentiments that verge on the almost banal, but several of the verses slap the tune onto shore ("On the day that your mentality decides to try and catch up with your biology").  The second we have already met before - "How Soon Is Now?"  And as I already have that latter on Hatful, should I as a consumer purchase this propaganda broadsheet for one great song?  Oh, "The Headmaster Ritual" starts the album energetically and atmospherically enough, with M's lyrical recounting of mean'ol schoolteachers subjecting schoolchildren to the same stale jokes and fashion sense of 1902, and the other M's jangly arpeggios, giving the fillip an epic feel.  A fine way to start off the record, if more epic atmosphere than possessing much in terms of actual hooks.  I also might grudgingly concede that "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore" should sit on comfortably on the bookshelf of Mopey Morrissey Ballads - OK, it's fine for what it is and probably a "classic", it's just that I've never been a huge fan of Morrissey in draggy, whiny balladry mode.  And there's not much of a hook there, either, aside from the "I've seen this happen in other people's lives" vocal melody in the chorus.  Which cuts to the heart of the matter:  these tunes are simply too stiff and hookless.  Not tuneless, or lacking in lyrical wit, or lush yet crisp atmospherics, or sharp band dynamics - but hooks?  Several of these tracks are little more than rockabilly readymades that suggest a band simply circling round the motions. So I lay blame entirely on Marr - his well of riffs had apparently encountered a dry spell for a brief period.

Or maybe not entirely.  The final two tracks push my relative indifference to most of this album into the realm of active dislike.  "Barbarism Begins At Home" isn't that terribly offensive - in fact, not offensive at all - but it is the weakest cut yet, as these Mancunians unwisely venture into funk.  Doesn't work, doesn't work at all, despite some decent bass work.  The title track that closes the album, though - hell yeah I'm offended.  And it's not primarily because of the PETA political stance, overwrought and absurd as it is.  It's the fact that it drags on for over 6 minutes, droning with little of musical merit to engage the listener, while Morrissey insistently howls, "It is murder!  It is murder!"  Have a bacon sarnie, Moz.  Appropriately enough, the LP ends with the mooing of cattle as a crowd cheers in a slaughterhouse.

I'm assuming that Moz's commitment to Jainism is about as sincere and consistent as his commitment to celibacy.

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