“Arriving in an era dominated by synth pop and gloomy post-punk, the Smiths’ eponymous debut was the bracing beginning of a new era.” STE It is a showcase for “Morrissey’s morose wit and Johnny Marr’s guitar chime, trudging through England’s cheerless marshes in Still Ill and This Charming Man.” RS
On the surface, the Smiths’ sound wasn’t radically different from traditional British guitar pop – Johnny Marr’s ringing, layered guitars were catchy and melodic – but it was actually an astonishing subversion of the form, turning the structure inside out. Very few of the songs followed conventional verse-chorus structure, yet they were quite melodic within their own right” STE and the “juxtaposing of [Morrissey’s] lopsided grin of gloom and the light doodling of [Marr’s] almost always perfectly placed guitar was virtually unheard of.” CL
“Marr’s inventive songwriting was made all the more original and innovative by Morrissey’s crooning and lyrics” STE, “cultivated from a batch of Morrissey’s diaries.” CL “Writing about unconventional topics, from homosexuality (Hand in Glove) to child molestation and murder, Morrissey had a distinctively ironic, witty, and literate viewpoint whose strangeness was accentuated by his off-kilter voice, which would move from a croon to a yelp in a matter of seconds.” STE
“Reference points were rare, apart from Morrissey’s adopted Oscar Wilde demeanor, to which the press clung with a morbid fascination. It remains a delicate set of knowing quaffs and rounded, innocent eyes, beguiling the listener with some wonderfully crafted pop – when they weren’t laughing behind their hands.” CL
“While the production of The Smiths is a little pristine, the songs are vital and alive, developing a new, unique voice within pop music. Though the Smiths continued to improve over the course of their career, their debut remains startling and exciting.” STE
- STE Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide
- CL Colin Larkin, Virgin All-Time Top 1000 Albums. (1998). Virgin Books: London, England.
- RS Rolling Stone: The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. (2005). Edited by Joe Levy. Wenner Media, LLC: New York, NY.