I woke up from a bad dream this morning, one of those intricately designed exercises in romantic world-building where you’ve imagined an entire life for yourself that doesn’t exist, and as you roll around in bed trying to piece it back together it slips slowly from your grasp. Naturally, the first thing I did once it wisped away into nothing was launch myself into a binge of The Smiths, because that’s how a grown man should spend his morning instead of working.
A few hours later, I noticed a pattern; there were certain songs that I ended up skipping over in my infinite loop through the band’s nearly immaculate catalog. Wait a minute: are there bad Smiths songs? Sacrilege, right? But it’s true, which, on the plus side for big fans, should give you something to feel bummed about for a few hours.
With that in mind, I’ve compiled this list of the ten most skippable Smiths songs. Why? It’s a list for no reason, and lists for no reason are content.
/notrollo, because this is obviously a classic, but does anyone really need to hear it again? I loved Nirvana, but I’m not exactly in any rush to go listen to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” any time soon either. It doesn’t help matters that this is a plodding six and a half minutes of mid-tempo looping tremolo with that tedious middle passage where you’re toughing it out waiting to get to what’s really the only high point of the song: “See I’ve already waited too long.” I feel it, Steven, especially in this snoozer.
Ask any Smiths fanatic, no matter how devoted, to name the worst song they ever recorded, and this will undoubtedly be the first one that springs to mind. Not really fair, since this is actually a cover of the 60s pop singer Twinkle, but that doesn’t get them off the hook for putting this turd to tape, which somehow calls to mind, and surpasses in frippery, Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time.” Points to Morrissey for always paying tribute to his influences, which were typically impeccable, but sadly not in this case.
I know we have the greatest lyricist and vocalist of all time in the band, but what if, and hear me out now, we asked him to sit out for a song? Sounds just crazy enough to work. I literally have nothing else to say about this monotonous instrumental wallow, only notable because it was the b-side to “How Soon Is Now,” other than it’s likely some sort of reference to Oscar Wilde. But then isn’t everything? “I think that God in creating Man somewhat overestimated his ability,” Wilde once said. I’d say there’s an analogy to be made in the recording of this one.
Another one that’s not technically a bad song, just a poor editing job. A full minute of groaning buzz saws and dying cows may have worked to shock at the time the song was released, but in the middle of a playlist today it kind of grinds the mood to a halt. I suppose that’s the point, in this song in particular, but also with everything else our man sings: bumming everyone out. It’s also notable for being one of the only Smiths songs with harmonies on top of the main vocal. The problem is, it’s some beta-pitch-shifted ghost harmony shit. I suppose it contributes to the ghastly feel of the song, but it sounds dated here. There’s a reason why this was the last song on side 2, because it made it easier for people to peace the fuck out before this piddling dirge came on.
This is the type of mincing track people who don’t like The Smiths think about when they think about why they don’t like The Smiths. Makes me want to rush over and kick a hole in the speakers whenever it comes on. “This isn’t it, this isn’t what we’re like” I want to scream. It’s like how “Yellow Submarine” is one of the first songs people who want to shit on The Beatles bring up. Plus, that Seinfeld-bass line in the intro? No thanks. Next.
Now hold on a minute, the actual meat of the song, if you’ll excuse the phrasing, is beautiful – an elegantly draped arm of sadness around heavy shoulders. But it takes two whole damn minutes to get into it. This is like the Be Here Now of The Smiths records, except instead of Oasis suffering under delusions of cocaine-fueled grandeur, the band here was just suffering under delusions of Morrissey-fueled delusions of Morrissey grandeur. Hate to say it, but it’s one of the only Smiths songs where I think might actually enjoy the cover better. Grant Lee Phillips cuts to the quick of the track’s slowly beating heart on his version.
Starting to notice a pattern here? The Smiths without Morrissey is a waste of time. Yeah, yeah, we all love Johnny, and he’s brilliant and changed the face of indie guitar playing forever, but then again he was also in Modest Mouse and The Cribs for a while, so dude isn’t necessarily the best decision maker. This one was apparently a solely-Marr-penned track, which Morrissey agreed to include on Rank to give him a few extra quid, credits-wise, probably the last generous thing he ever did for anyone in the band.
The fact that two of the worst The Smiths songs ever recorded also happen to be cover songs tells you a little about how hard it is to find songs worth skipping in their catalog, but oh boy is this one a contender, especially for being one of Morrissey’s most off key vocals in a career already full of them. So skippable I’m going to skip writing the rest of this blurb.
The rare recording that’s just vocals and piano (and wind, oddly), this one at least lives up to its central lyric. “Sing me to sleep.” It’s pretty enough, and meets the required morbidity quorum, but it’s almost a parody of The Smiths…actually I take this one back. It’s getting a little dusty in here while I’m listening to it. Forget I said anything.
I know that moaning about how no one has ever loved you over a slowly churning mid-tempo grind is kind of, you know, their personal brand, but I don’t think we necessarily need to hear you do that literally.
There’s really not much you can do to dress up the rockabilly format, which is why dudes who are all about it all fall into step with the whole uniform costume thing, but this would-be barn-burner manages to drain the blood out of its sideburned cheeks. It’s strange, because it’s essentially the same idea as brilliant songs like “Rusholme Ruffians” and “Vicar In a Tutu.” Perhaps it’s the lyric, one of the laziest they ever put to tape. “Oh Glen,” indeed.