Song of the Day: The Smiths – London

Jordan Posner Recalls: The Smiths get a semi-deserved reputation as a relatively mellow band. Despite Morrissey’s razor sharp barbs, guitarist Johnny Marr was generally more interested in layers of jangly guitar than volume. This is one of the reasons that the Smiths’ live album Rank is so essential: Marr is handling the various complicated guitar lines solo without the benefit of multitracking and it immediately becomes apparent how powerful a player he actually is. The group generally opted for nuance in the studio in favor of power chords, but in London they legitimately rock out. Moz is self-assured and haunting, while Marr is raw and jagged. Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce keep the punk-influenced drive tight. Then, the whole thing is over in two minutes.

You wouldn’t think that there would be enough time for serious pathos. Come on. We’re talking about Steven Patrick Morrissey, here. The guy could inject an ice cream cone with melancholy. In London, the accusatory tone of the lyrics perfectly fits the breathless assault of the music.

You left your girlfriend on the platform

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with this really ragged notion that you’ll return

but she knows that when he goes

he really goes. 

Morrissey isn’t one of the ones who leaves for Euston train station. He’s one of the ones who has to stay and pick up the pieces. He’s the voice of the people who didn’t make it out alive, who didn’t go on to the big city.

Essentially. he’s fucking bitter, and the bile is palpable when backed by the squealing guitar and bass. This is probably why the Smiths typically marry Morrissey’s lyrics to more gentle rhythms. A whole album of songs like London would basically be a Sex Pistols record (in other words, a little much). But as one of many sparkling gems in the jeweled crown that is the Smiths’ catalog, it adds another layer of texture to an already accomplished group.

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3 comments to “Song of the Day: The Smiths – London”
  1. But I see what you mean. Same with Stipe, who I always equate with Morrissey. With R.E.M, they purposefully mixed the vocals lower in the mix to make it just one of the instruments. Perhaps the Smiths were doing the same thing.

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