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The Queen Is Dead, The Smiths

Rough Trade, June 16, 1986

Track Listing: 1. The Queen Is Dead/Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty, 2. Frankly, Mr. Shankly, 3. I Know It’s Over, 4. Never Had No One Ever, 5. Cemetry Gates, 6. Bigmouth Strikes Again, 7. The Boy with the Thorn in His Side, 8. Vicar in a Tutu, 9. There Is a Light That Never Goes Out, 10. Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others

Call me a cynic, but I’m no fan. This album bugs. Tracks blend together into a stereophonic sob story with pessimism assailing the listener left and right, frontward and back. My assessment is something’s stuck up the band’s collective bum. My advice: Take a double dose of happy pills, guys.

Either that or brace for the fist I’m gonna plant in your mouths to shut you up.

“Sweetness, sweetness
I was only joking
When I said I’d like to
Smash every tooth in your head”

-from Bigmouth Strikes Again

I kid. I only kid. Call me a sucker for the bleakness bandied about. I totally get it. The universe sucks. I’d be amongst the first to deny being a sentimental fool—all smiley faces and sunshine—let me tell you.

I detest my job, particularly on the days when some dopey sap’s willing to pay me a buck to slog outta bed. The government’s hellbent on enforcing what I can eat by overtaxing my Twinkies. Gas prices send my heart into palpitations, and my parents are kicking me out of the house. That’s a lot to take for someone who had big dreams for the time when he turned thirty-five. I’d be thoroughly disgusted with the state of my life, except I’m now forty-one.

“Frankly, Mr. Shankly
I’m a sickening wreck
I’ve got the 21st century
Breathing down my neck”

-from Frankly, Mr. Shankly

At this day and age, I’ve heard enough about endless love, burning up the dance floor and bikini clad cuties frolicking in the California sun. Singing along to rays of light makes me want to puke. Bring on the darkness. Lay out the heartache. Let me, for a moment, rob the words and phrases of the blokes at hand (full disclosure!) and share the makings of an afternoon of idyllic fun:

“A dreaded sunny day
So let’s go where we’re wanted
And I meet you at the cemetry gates”

-from Cemetry Gates

Just be sure to dress in black from head to toe.

Ha. I josh, still. I’m no more drawn to the notion of macabre trysts at gravesites because I’m a depressive than I’m repulsed by the morbid because I’m a hopelessly stodgy jolly good fellow. My amusement is derived from tongue-in-cheek interplay. Humans have twisted emotions. Neither excessive glee nor unrelenting bitterness entertains the realist for long.

“The boy with the thorn in his side
Behind the hatred there lies a murderous desire for love”

-from The Boy with the Thorn in His Side

We are not dewy-eyed buffoons. We are not Goths consumed by sadness. Most of all, we’re not absorbed in seriousness and self-importance. So, lighten up a bit. No matter how adoringly dreadful or disastrously beautiful the past or days ahead may seem, we have these thoughts to keep us grounded in joyful misery.

“And if a double-decker bus crashes into us
To die by your side is such a heavenly way to die
And if a ten-ton truck kills the both of us
To die by your side, well, the pleasure, the privilege is mine”

-from There Is a Light That Never Goes Out

All kidding aside.