Everett True

41 Short Reviews about the new Smiths box set

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As promised, here are the best of the capsule reviews of the new Smiths box set from Facebook and Twitter and CB regulars.

1. The Holy Trinity

The Smiths are the last member of the holy trinity of English rock music. First there came The Beatles, then came The Jam, and lo, then came The Smiths. This holy trinity exists because in the eyes of true believers they represent something approaching perfection. The same group members played on all the songs, and the band themselves split before doing anything even remotely rubbish. The Smiths came of age in an era of self-consciously literate music criticism, and as such are even harder to approach than their holy predecessors. Harder in the sense of coming to them without preconceived ideas. People go out of their way to talk about how much they hate The Beatles, but not The Smiths. Granted, many people hate Morrissey, but The Smiths are generally given an easy ride. As such their back catalogue seems to exist in some kind of hermetically sealed jar. All ideas and emotions surrounding them have been expressed and approved. I’ll hold my hands up and say I find the majority of The Smiths back catalogue to be all but faultless, but I never feel like listening to them. I get more from Morrissey’s solo albums. If you’re thinking about buying the box set it’s because you know and love the music already, so it’s just a pointless luxury. If you’re a newcomer, buy the individual albums instead just to see if you can approach this iconic band on your own terms, in your own time. Better still, buy Your Arsenal. You can’t go wrong with that album.
Wallace Wylie

2. I never bought a Smiths record

I never bought a Smiths record. Not one. I didn’t own a cardigan either. Perhaps I was a bit late to the game, perhaps the burning need to own just wasn’t there. I loved the songs, would whirl around dance floors to ‘Oscillate Wildly’ or ‘Panic‘ or ‘How Soon Is Now?’. Would do so still. Every one of them, single after single, a perfectly crystallised gem of wry amusement and bitterness and zinging guitars; there was considerable joy in savouring the delightfully articulated experience of a fellow miserabilist (a very different beast from a miserable git). But dancing to them, seeing them on TV (an occasion back then, to see a band one liked on TV and The Smiths’ TOTP moment was thrilling), hearing them played by Peel, sufficed somehow.

So this re-mastered box set has piqued my interest. It has them all. It sounds wonderful. It’s good value. It looks nice. I ought to own this thing. But what would it be for? Really, the only use I can think of would be as a Christmas present for my teenage daughter and there’s something a bit dodgy about a parent bestowing angst and alienation upon their child. There’s no need for it. There’s no need for Morrissey these days either, dimmed as he is by age and out-of-joint-ness and the nasty tang of racism. So, bah, off you go, Smiths Box Set: delight some other nostalgia-blurred fucker, not me.
Lucy Cage

3. Cabbage farts

The Smiths (the band), reviewed in love: I’m a shy, bisexual geek girl who grew up in Lancashire and loves The Shangri-Las. Of course I’m a Smiths fan. If you dissected me you’d find blood and bone and Smiths lyrics floating under my skin. No matter how enormous a penis Morrissey acts, this band still remain important to me. I even quoted them the night I lost my virginity (“It’s the Eskimo blood in my veins”). This is what I think of the deluxe £250 Smiths boxset:

Reviewed in Smiths song titles: Paint A Vulgar Picture. Money Changes Everything. Unlovable.

Reviewed in vegetables: Big turnip. Small turnip. Medium-sized turnip. Cabbage fart.

Reviewed in racists (and cereal): Flecks of lukewarm porridge dripping from Enoch Powell’s chin. Pauline Hanson vomits semolina.

Reviewed in synonyms for sadness: Joylessness. Dolour. Ennui. Lugubriosity. Dysphoria. Bummer.

Reviewed in hypocrites: Nick Clegg.

Who will buy this box set? David Cameron. David Cameron. David fucking Cameron.
Tamsin Chapman

4. A poem

Don’t succumb to the elitism of completists,
Is my advice. On a plane to Seattle once I charmed
A haughty Smiths superfan, dizzy with altitude and tanniny airline wine,
Into burning me a copy (at the time
Very rare) of their original demos: 5 tracks,
Including some of their biggest early singles.
Everything is a remaster;
Gentle reader, don’t succumb.
Petra Davis

5. English people are capable of great beauty, but …

English people are capable of great beauty, perhaps because as islanders they are open to beauty wherever it comes from, perhaps because in the grim grey step that is day-to-day English life, the need for beauty can become paramount and a matter of survival. English people are capable of great insularity and ignorance, perhaps because as islanders they feel fearful whenever their borders seem threatened, perhaps because in the grim grey step that is day-to-day English life, fantasies of former, simpler times can unhealthily dominate a cultural mindset. 5/10
Neil Kulkarni

6. The Smiths ruined music for a generation

The Smiths ruined Rough Trade Records, they ruined the NME, they helped change the meaning of the word ‘independent’ from a state of mind into a grey all-encompassing musical description, they made it OK for guitar bands to venerate the past, and in return they gave us half-a-dozen (no more) very good songs. I understand that none of the above was particularly their fault, but clearly something about their music appealed to the people whose fault it was. And the half-dozen (no more) great songs … for that we should love them? ‎3/10. No more.
Everett True 

7. Repackage, reevaluate, re-promote the past

Repackage, reevaluate, re-promote the past. The Smiths were once a powerful, relevant entity, these days that reputation is somewhat compromised. Compromised by greed, compromised by too many poorly-titled solo dirges, compromised by the passage of time and the changing of the guard. Once upon a time, even Morrissey’s press outbursts were electric, his recent appearance on Dermott O Dreary’s BBC Radio 2 show was exactly the grave he deserves. Ripping off his band mates and hoarding all the cash while Marr settles for academic acclaim does nothing for the bank accounts of Joyce and Rourke! Even Rough Trade sold out to Sanctuary eventually: the nation’s independence sold down the river. Build a bonfire of the vanities, and stick this indulgence on the top. Burn down the disco, hang the blessed DJ, this music says nothing to me about my life, yet says everything to everybody about the way all our lives are fair game for commodity venture investment futures: “This charming box, this charming executive”.
Simon Morgan

8-14 From Twitter

Please, please, please let me – no, let Moz – eat what he wants. Lord knows, it would be the first time.
Logan K Young

They sound better than the early masterings (GREAT Johnny Marr), but don’t impact us like in the 80s, when we heard the vinyls.
Marcus Benefather

🙂 😛 😀 : I :S 🙁
Vladimir Garay

Repackage, repackage. No photographs or tacky badge. Sounds fab
Beautiful Pigeon

what difference does it make?
Dominic Hale

The Smiths would be the most over-rated band ever to have come from the UK but Radiohead have now taken over. Box set out now.
Phil Southall-Chell

HMV knows I’m miserable now
Ben Martin

15-41 From Facebook 

They came. They saw. They changed your life. You probably have never smiled as much as you used to … but then, that was always overrated anyway. The songs? They’re all here. Each one a voyeuristic soundtrack to someone else’s misery. You have probably never needed them more.
David Sheridon  

Frankly Steven Patrick it’s a bit of an ask, that I send more of my cash to your should-be retired arse. But I don’t know. There’s nothing here I didn’t get years ago so I must speak Frankly Steven Patrick.
Lloyd Barrett 

It doesn’t matter how compact or concise the package, Morrissey’s misery is as big as ever. No lyricist has ever captured the ugliness of being unloved as well and no musician has ever dressed it up as beautifully as Johnny Marr. The songwriters I know best are Lennon/McCartney. The ones who know me best are Morrissey/Marr.
Josh Bloom

The songs are the same as you remember them, the same ones etched into your memory and taking up space on your iTunes. The box costs just under $500.
Ren Scurville

Do you get a prize if you manage not to quote the lyrics to’ Paint A Vulgar Picture’ and point out the huge, thundering irony, the way every critic has done to every Smiths/Morrissey reissue for the past 20-odd years? (Not that the criticism isn’t valid, but c’mon, point made.)
Tim Footman 

How soon is now, that was just then, which was in fact just now a second ago. When were The Smiths again?
Lawrence English 

‎”Gobbledock releases box set that puts Morrisey to shame.”
Darragh Murray

In my youth, The Smiths’ legacy was something hard to nail down, something difficult to comprehend. As I matured, it became easier to spot: imagine The Cure without any songs, or a library full of bad ideas. Recommended for listeners who like their soft-racism, vegetarianism and 80s pop-music pristinely presented but without a hint of swagger or human kindness. Dogshit.
Ian Keith Rogers

I saw and photographed The Smiths. I think I took their last live picture. Thanks to my photo pass, I litterally had my elbows on the stage (Brixton Academy Dec ’86). Believe me Everett, they were a fucking good band. Now, did they record too many songs, is a Smiths box relevant today or not, OK, you can discuss that. But they were very good band.
Richard Bellia 

Once again – “Bigger than my first apartment!”
Gord Cumming

‎”Don’t buy this.”
Tom Glassey 

A while back Rhino released remastered vinyl reissues of The Smiths’ primary back catalog. Now Rhino is trotting out the same reissues in a box with the inclusion of four odds and sods LPs. It seems Rhino stands to make some good loot form kids willing to buy the same shit in a different box.
Timothy Grisham

You could easily blame the popularity of The Smiths – and hence the continued success of Morrissey – for emo, achingly shit indie flicks like (500) Days Of Summer, the neutering of punk, the banning of hot dogs at festivals, Gene, millions of cringeworthy status updates and acres of dead gladioli. No wonder we constantly need these sort of reissues to remind us why we let it happen in the first place.
Thomas Blatchford

You can’t polish a turd, but you can roll it in glitter.
Shan Welham 

It’s The Smiths. It comes in a box.
Dennis R. White

Remember the teenage thrill of dancing up and down on the deserted rain-slicked deck of a Norway-bound ferry to The Queen Is Dead on your Walkman because only Morrisey understood your pain? Yeah? Well, now enjoy the grown-up thrill of remembering exactly how long ago that was, and just how fucking DUSTY your house has become in the meantime.
Mike Middleton

The Smiths were an English alternative rock band, formed in Manchester in 1982. Based on the song writing partnership of Morrissey (vocals) and Johnny Marr (guitar), the band also included Andy Rourke (bass) and Mike Joyce (drums). Critics have called them the most important alternative rock band to emerge from the British independent music scene of the 1980s. The group was signed to the independent record label Rough Trade Records, for whom they released four studio albums and several compilations, as well as numerous non-LP singles. If you buy the Smiths boxed set you can listen to these songs in all their repackaged glory.
Andrew Stacey

The only Smiths box i’m interested in is their mass tomb.
Chris O’Kane

The band Geoff Travis chose over The Go-Betweens to save the 80s and who once opened for The Laughing Clowns have been tastelessly reissued by Rhino who’ve yet to release anything properly. Limited to 3,000 Ebay account holders.
Donat Tahiraj

‎It’s fucking boring, morose shit, jsut like it was in the 80s, overrated sixth form angsty poetry set to overwrought melody-free Byrds jangle, pass the sick bucket … done.
Simon Keeler

Something U2 fans listen to, to feel interesting.
Robert Lee

It’s The Smiths. Love them or hate them. You know already. Who is this for? Collectors who don’t give a fuck about the music. You don’t need this.
Roger Nelson  

The Smiths have got a box set out. Or it could be a set of boxes, which would probably be of more use. You could keep cardigans in them. Or The Cardigans, depending on your fondness for storing Swedish pop bands. Morrissey probably likes doing both. Buried beneath them, you’ll also find a few songs that you’ve definately heard before.
Rich Wilson

The Smiths Box Set is not a compilation of the greatest hits by Patti Smith, Elliott Smith, Robert Smith, Will Smith, Willow Smith, Jimmy Smith, Bessie Smith, Michael W. Smith, Meaghan Smith, Keely Smith, Mindy Smith, Alice Smith, Warren Smith, Oliver Smith, Lonnie Smith, Carl Smith and Connie Smith. That’s a shame.
Clem Conti 

Smiths boxsets: naturally you’ll want them all but since the really good one’s already gone you’ll just need the two lesser versions (£184.98/$289.72). Postage and packing from the UK to you is of course an additional fee but in an unnecessary world it’s rare to find necessary things and postage is necessary when ordering things through the post so please enjoy your Smiths boxsets while there is still time and money.
Nick Schuld

I prefer Harry Smith’s Anthology Of American Folk Music.
Oliver Kersbergen

Forget the box. Check the vox.
Martin Williams

Related posts:
THE COLLAPSE BOARD REVIEW The Smiths – The Complete Smiths (Rhino)
The Collapse Board review of that new Smiths ‘Complete’ box set

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