Monday, December 7, 2015

The Smiths - Louder Than Bombs

Louder Than Bombs (1986) ****

This 72 minute double LP (single CD, single long Youtube video or whatever streaming venue of your choice) tosses an assortment of A & B sides not available on regular issue albums.  It was released specifically for the U.S. market, where none of these songs had previously been available; there's a shorter U.K.-market comp entitled The World Won't Listen, consisting of non-LP A/B-sides.  Discographical confusions aside, what we have here is simple:  the Smiths at their best and worst, because it is as a singles, not album, band that their legacy shall rest upon.  Sides 1 & 2 (on vinyl; it's the A-side of my old cassette copy) is an easy five-star classic, one brilliant, breathless rush of gem after gem (except for "London", more of a riff than fully fleshed song).  Alas, flipping my cassette over, I find that after the unusually bouncy & upbeat piece of fluffy jangle (hiya, Kirsty Maccoll!  Maybe I'll review that lass' work someday), the B-sides on Sides 3 & 4 offer little new or compelling or memorable.  Well, that is -- half of the tracks on the second side of the cassette were already available in superior form on Hatful of Hollow, and of the previously unheard B-sides, "Rubber Ring", the instrumental "Oscillate Wildly", and the cover of Twinkle's "Golden Lights" rank as three of the worst-ever Smithstunes.  "Unloveable" is a keeper, but that's about it.  But oh!, those first dozen tracks!  I have two great loves and flipping a slab of vinyl like a coin would be the only way to settle the issue of which one is the true one:  the dreary mope-ballad "Half a Person" which speaks to my adolescent morbidity and alienation, or the anthemic "Panic" which speaks to my alienation from my peers and their shitty taste in music.

Anyhow, expository section of review thus ended.  With 24 songs, a track by track review is ridiculous, and it's the Smiths - they jingle, they jangle, Morrissey pouts and you never know how seriously he's taking the joke or if it is indeed all a put-on.  Let me guide my psyche through some of Moz's lyrical bon mots for a glimpse into his (and my) soul.

"I was bored before I even began" - Sometimes I do get bored when I start writing some of these reviews, not so much that I don't enjoy doing it, but more like: is it worth the bother?  Why am I churning out this drivel for an obscure blog that barely a handful of people ever actually read?  Why do I waste valuable time on people who don't care whether I live or I die?

"I wear black on the outside because black is how I feel on the inside" - Actually, I don't care for my fashion sense.  I'm an aging punk that takes his fashion cues from another aging punk, Mark E. Smith, in that I just toss on whatever I feel like and don't give a toss what other people think.  And what could be more punk than that?  P.S. I actually used that line recently on a girl dressed in black (hey, I'm enough of a geek that when I saw the opportunity, I couldn't resist).  Naturally, she had no clue what I was talking about.

"Shoplifters of the world unite and take over!" - I haven't shoplifted since I was a teenager.  It's like vandalism and drunkenly peeing in public, one of those petty crimes that everybody does as a kid that seem would look really, really silly on you as an adult past a certain age in your life (like, say, after college when you've got an adult job in the real world).  Or alternately, a desperate hobo living on food stamps, which I should never rule out the possibility at some point in my future.

"Shyness is nice and shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life you'd like to" - People who knew me in high school and college generally express shock when they find out what kind of person I've become these days.  I've actually developed halfway decent social skills; I'm social, period.  Sometimes I even date girls.  It's been a long, slow, painful process pushing myself into a relatively normal, socially well-adjusted person.  My biggest regret is having spent so many years as a shy, confused, emotionally tormented, angry and alienated loner - and what should've been the best years of my life, my youth.  Now I'm bored and old.

"16, clumsy and shy, that's the story of my life" - See above.  Have I really adjusted that well?  Because there are times when that still sums up exactly how I feel.  In my average, everyday life when I engage with friends and encounter strangers & aquaintances, I generally have no problems, at least no more than any ordinary person.  Romantic situations - I'm a complete trainwreck.  It's an area of my life that in my younger days I had little experience with (see above, again) and learning how to navigate these tricky waters at such a late stage -- it confuses and (to be honest) terrifies me to an extent.  Well, I suppose these are normal feelings for almost anyone.

"The music that they constantly play, it says nothing to me about my life" - One thing that I hate about dance music is that it's dance music.  There are all kinds of music that you can dance to, yet if you go a club all they will play is electronic dance music, which is a very narrow and narrow-minded genre that is OK in small doses but it's not the only kind of music out there.  Check out clips from the '60s, mods were disco dancing to "Autumn Almanac" of all things!  Tired of the tango?  Bored with the beguine?  Had your fill of quadrilles?  I always hated the hair metal and grunge crap that kids my age were listening to back in the '90s.  Kids and teenagers in general have shitty taste in music because they don't know any better, but unfortunately they drive the market by being the top consumers of manufactured Top 40 and dance pop and whatever testosterone-poisoned variant of metal is thumping its chest, so mainstream crap is what we shall eternally get in the mainstream.  So change the damn station.

"When all I ever wanted in life was to be famous" - Can't identify with this line at all.  Never had much of a craving for the spotlight.  That's one reason why I never seriously tried to become a musician, despite my obvious appreciation for music (that, and I have no talent for any instrument whatsoever).  Putting myself on stage just seems, not frightening, not at all, but just silly.  It makes me feel goofy and self-conscious.  Especially if I were trying to soulfully pour my heart out on fruity love songs - no, just no, not me at all.

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