This might be slightly the wrong title for this blog. ‘Universal’, in this context at least, colloquially implies ‘ to all’ and that is most assuredly not the case here. Anyone who likes The Smiths knows they are not for everyone. I myself just did not ‘get‘ the band for a long time. I’ve been slowly sinking into their music over the course of the last ten or so years, not until most recently becoming literally obsessed with the albums The Queen is Dead and Meat is Murder. And of course when I get obsessed with something I always have the itch to share it here, so…
I remember in high school a lot of the folks I hung with who were into punk and what was then legitimately ‘alternative’ music* loved The Smiths, but when I heard them in the context of that time and place I just did not get the correlation. I’ve waxed on in other blogs about the pantera-tinted blinders I still had on in those days and as much of a gradient as there was between something as (hindsight alert) bad as pantera and as awesome as Fugazi it was still way too many steps ahead in my musical evolution to understand the appeal of The Smiths then. But I’m a firm believer that you find some stuff when you need it, or at least when you’re primed to understand it, and that would definitely describe my relationship with The Smiths of late. It’s been a dark and gloomy year and there is something so sincere in this band’s gallows view of music that it has fit in ways that kind of freak me out a little bit. Every person is a process through time – I’m a firm believer that ‘human being’ is a derogative statement; we are not ‘being’ anything, conjugation of the word ‘to be’ implies stasis and anyone who is even remotely self aware can recognize we are anything but static. If you are, too bad for you. Me, I change every year, every month, shit, sometimes every day and I’ve mutated now into someone who feels not only the famous Morrissey’s voice and lyrics in the pit of my soul but also Johnny Marr’s guitar, Andy Rourke’s bass and Mike Joyce’s drums and their uncanny symbiotic relationship to those vocals. This is a group in every sense of the term. For example, in songs like Bigmouth Strikes Again it’s as if Marr’s guitar takes up the exact punctuation of Morrissey’s words the beat after they break. The music is more a cohesive, emotional whole as opposed to being the sum of its parts.
Because I’m often an over-thinker I believe The Smith’s have struck this harmonic with me now – as they no doubt have with so many before at different times in their lives – because of where my head is at in relation to the aging process**. There is something so Universal about Morrissey’s lyrics – art imitates life but this is ridiculous. The more I live the more experiences I have, good or bad, and they line this large, abstract corridor of time that will eventually dead end with my tombstone and in some really strange way when Morrissey sings it seems like he’s singing to you as if he’s standing over your tombstone – there are moments of the most haunting, appropriately applied technique – reverb – like the last bits of consensual reality reflecting and refracting off the stone walls of the grave while you are being lowered into it, everything in the world you ever knew receding on the tide of your life as it ebbs away from you forever. I’m sure this sounds melodramatic but if there’s one thing The Smiths have taught me it’s that melodramatic can be good when executed with a certain degree of panache.
That’s it. Abrupt ending perhaps, but fitting given the mood of the piece. It’s been a hard couple days and I’m recoiling into some Weiss beer and yes, as many more rotations of these albums as I can get before I pass out.
* I’m thinking here specifically of a boy named Brian’s house and how it introduced me to Fugazi, Black Flag, Rollins Band, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and waaaayyy to much more to keep wasting space here)
** Thanks Six Feet Under!!!