The Smiths’ final studio album is a very graceful way to bow out. Leaving aside the presence of some songs that spoil its second side and which are notoriously glaring, the record adheres to the formula that had worked so well before: self-questioning lyrics over jangly guitars and very solid grooves.
The album’s opener is (in my opinion) the best opener of all their albums. The song is called “A Rush And A Push And The Land Is Ours”, and it has a roaring vocal from Morriseyy while the main melodic instrument is a piano. It is abutted by “I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish”, a song which was released as a single. I agree with that decision – while it doesn’t lead the band into unchartered territories it does play their formula to a hilt, and it plays it well. But I can’t disagree with those who claim “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” would have been a better A-side.
The other single, by the way, was “Girlfriend In A Coma”. Again, it incarnates their classic sound. It doesn’t take the listener anywhere he hasn’t gone before, but it lets him enjoy the ride for sure.
The album has the distinction of featuring Morrissey’s one and only instrumental contribution. The song upon which he bestows his performance is “Death Of A Disco Dancer”. Basically, he randomly bashes the keys during the song’s long fade.
Moreover, a composition named “Paint A Vulgar Picture” has a long, essay-like lyric and a guitar solo by Marr – something that is very rare, and which works so well it leaves you wondering what lay beyond the tip of the iceberg.
The songs that somehow mar the record are “Death At One’s Elbow” and “Unhappy Birthday”. They are quite frankly inexcusable (especially the former), and they make it clear that Marr and Morrissey’s relationship was becoming too strained too handle. Also, many people dislike “I Won’t Share You”. I don’t feel it is particularly good, but since it is a tale of possessiveness that stands as the song closing their final album and it features just Johnny Marr and Morrissey, I find it hard not to listen attentively.
The conclusion is that the album will leave any fan more than satisfied. And while I wouldn’t recommend it as your first purchase (that accolade goes to “The Queen Is Dead”), making it your second acquisition is not a bad move. Not at all.