The Smiths – Meat Is Murder (1985): Review


Produced by The Smiths
Label – Rough Trade/Sire

“Belligerent ghouls, run Manchester schools, spineless swines, cemented minds”. How many albums from the 1980’s would open with a vehement swipe at the British education systems’ failings? These are the posturing, brooding words of a self proclaimed moral missionary, Stephen Morrissey and his band The Smiths. “Meat Is Murder”, the bands’ second long player, gives a more than ample opportunity for Morrissey to voice his rallying cry for the ones who don’t have a voice. The young, abused at home and school, and the animal kingdom reared for a life destined for the dinner table. “Meat Is Murder” captures Morrissey at his angriest, and even the delicate upbeat work of guitarist Johnny Marr and the rest of the band can’t distort The Smiths darkest album.


There is, without doubt musical similarities with the debut album “The Smiths”. There’s the same detailed multi tracked lead guitar from the ever underrated Marr, improving bass performance from Andy Rourke and an effort towards a collage of sound that maintains its identity and melody and allows Morrissey’s limited vocal range a forgiving almost apologetic relationship. Kicking off with the outstanding “The Headmaster Ritual”, a beautifully melodic and lyrically astute stab at the education system would be the best song from the album and one wonders why it was never released as a single. Other highlights include the single, “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore”, an emotional shot at the ones who laugh at loneliness, “I Want The One I Can’t Have”, and “Barbarism Begins At Home” which spits poison at corporal punishment at home, bizarrely set to a disco beat. Where the album fails is on the uncomfortable rockabilly tracks “Rusholme Ruffians” and “Nowhere Fast” which sound musically repetitious.

“Meat Is Murder” is a staging post for what was to follow and it’s a great follow up to “The Smiths”, but the next move would be “The Queen Is Dead”; their greatest work.


Track Listing
1. “The Headmaster Ritual” 4:52
2. “Rusholme Ruffians” 4:20
3. “I Want the One I Can’t Have” 3:14
4. “What She Said” 2:42
5. “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore” 4:59
6. “Nowhere Fast” 2:37
7. “Well I Wonder” 4:00
8. “Barbarism Begins at Home” 6:57
9. “Meat Is Murder” 6:06

That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore

The Headmaster Ritual

See Also…

The Smiths – Strangeways Here We Come (1987): Review

Rest In Peace Winnie Johnson: The Smiths – Suffer Little Children (1984)

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