Connor Hodges kicks off MUSE’s ‘My favourite…’ series with a look back to The Smith’s timely album, The Queen Is Dead.
Picture the scene: it’s 1986, three million people are unemployed, the sky is (probably) grey, and Thatcher’s government has expunged all hope from the average Briton. In other words, the soil is ripe for a banging indie album. Who better to reap the harvest of melancholy than The Smiths? Already established through Morrissey’s quirky, dry-humour and Marr’s raw guitar-playing talent, The Smiths strayed from the tedium of cringe-inducing 80s pop and gave a disenchanted youth hope for music’s future. The future of music was here, and the Queen was most certainly dead.
The musical journey that The Queen Is Dead provides is an ever-changing one. Opening with the hard-hitting titular single, Morrissey waxes lyrical about his disdain for royalty; a message made all the more venomous by Marr’s erratic and fast-paced guitar. If symbolic acts of regicide were too extreme, The Smiths had you covered. The ending track, Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others, offers a completely different sound. It’s slower. It’s funnier. Simply put, it shows that The Smiths don’t have to be constantly making a political statement to be good – even three minutes of sexual innuendo will do.
Juxtaposing sounds pervade the album’s entirety. There are light-hearted yet vitriolic tracks, such as Frankly, Mr. Shankly and Cemetry Gates, but the mood becomes more bleak with I Know It’s Over. Morrissey’s lament – ‘Oh mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head’ – is one of the most haunting lyrics he’s ever written. This then leads on to what Marr believes synthesises the album’s core feel: Never Had No One Ever.
For me, The Queen Is Dead really comes into its own with There Is a Light That Never Goes Out. Its themes of loneliness, alienation and love are universally relatable. Rourke’s bass and Marr’s guitar provide a catchy backdrop for Morrissey’s uncharacteristic pangs of passion (‘to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die’) to seep through.
Thirty years on, the impact of The Queen Is Dead is not lost. The Smiths are still as influential and unique as they ever were. Unfortunately for Morrissey, the Queen is still alive and kicking, but the light still hasn’t gone out for The Smiths and their legacy.
Every week MUSE will be publishing an article on our writer’s favourite work of art: albums, films, paintings, anything. If you have a piece of art you feel passionately about – get in touch!
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