The second album recorded by the Mancunian ensemble, “Meat Is Murder” features better production, a tougher sound and a broader subject matter. Morrissey now tackles issues such as the British Educational system (“The Headmaster’s Ritual”, the opening number and one of the album’s highlights) as well as vegetarianism (the track that closes the record and which lends its title to the album), whereas some songs like “Nowhere Fast” make clear the political stance of the singer for the first time on record.
As I said, sonically-speaking the album packs more of a punch than their previous offering. While it can be said that Marr stole the show instrumentally the first time around, now the rest of the band is given more breathing space, and their dexterity shines time and again. The album as a whole benefits from that.
In addition to the songs which were mentioned above, the album has the prototypical compositions everybody expects from Morrissey. These include “What She Said”, written from the point of view of a despondent female character and “Well I Wonder”, a mostly acoustic interlude that breaks the tougher-sounding mood of the disc and which includes one of the most hummable melodies here.
Also, a song named “I Want The One I Can’t Have” deals with one of Morrissey’s pet themes – whether “the mind rules the body”, or the other way around. He had already tackled the issue when he wrote “Still Ill”, and now he gives further context by adding elements like class distinctions and the impact of violence on young, impressionable minds. It seems to deal with the loss of innocence that Morrissey described in the song “Reel Around The Fountain” from a different light – a light which is darker yet somehow glowingly alive. Most of all, the role which aggression occupies next to (or within) the process of growing up and the impossibility of continue demanding and receiving things from the world like before (since the world is not just your family anymore) is well depicted in the song.
A track that has been added to the CD is “How Soon Is Now”, maybe their most popular song nowadays. Marr stated at the time that his aim was to create an opening that would make people say “Ah, it’s that song!”, much in the same way that people do whenever Clapton’s “Layla” starts playing on the radio. Although it is not my favorite Smiths’ songs I have to say that it encapsulates their MO representatively enough – guitar wizardry, a fluid groove, lyrics that deal with dark matters and paint them darker than they really are, a phrase used as a title that is not mentioned as part of the lyrics and which sets the scene perfectly… it is all here.
“Meat Is Murder” was the one and only record released during the comparatively short lifespan of the band to hit the top of the charts. I am ranking it higher than the debut because it is undeniably better, but out of all their four albums it is the one I spin the less often. Still, it is an unquestionably good addition to your collection, and one key piece in their development as a band.